Juneberry

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of fresh juneberries before being prepared for babies starting solid food.

When can babies have juneberries?

Juneberries may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, though you may want to consider limiting the amount of raw berries served to ¼ cup or so as juneberries contain varying levels of amygdalin and prunasin, which the body can convert to cyanide.1 To date, there is no evidence that consuming raw juneberries is harmful to humans, though research is limited.2

Warning

The leaves and twigs of the juneberry plant are toxic; never let a child put them in their mouth.3 4 5 Further, raw juneberries may contain small amounts of amygdalin and prunasin, naturally occurring cyanogenic substances present in many seeds and fruit pits.6 7 8 Cooking juneberries into a sauce is a method of cyanide detoxification.9 While there is no evidence of human toxicity from consuming raw juneberries, there are also no studies that have examined juneberry consumption in young children.10 We do know that Indigenous communities have been safely serving them to their children for thousands of years. It is our opinion that small amounts of raw juneberry are okay for babies 6 months and older. Out of an abundance of caution, consider limiting the amount offered to ¼ cup for infants younger than 12 months of age and ½ cup for toddlers over 12 months of age.

Where do juneberries grow?

With their short harvesting season, juneberries are a welcome sign of summer in North America. Depending on where you are, you may know the fruit by a different name: serviceberry, sarvisberry, saskatoon, and shad or shad berry, to name a few. For some Indigenous communities, juneberries have historically been a staple food, eaten fresh or dried, pressed into cakes, or incorporated into pemmican. Juneberries grow wild in North America and are even planted on many city sidewalks, where they are grown for their beautiful spring blossoms.

Yaroslava, 18 months, eats fresh juneberries.
Auguste, 19 months, eats fresh juneberries.

Are juneberries healthy for babies?

Yes, in small quantities. Juneberries contain fiber to support digestion and balance the microbiome, vitamins A and E to promote healthy vision and cell function, and B vitamins to bolster neurological development. Juneberries also contain small amounts of iron and are rich in anthocyanins – antioxidants that also give the berries their deep blue-purple color.

The potential downside is that raw juneberries can contain varying amounts of amygdalin and prunasin, naturally occurring cyanogenic substances present in many seeds and fruit pits.11 12 13 Cooking juneberries into a sauce is a method of detoxification.14

While there is no evidence of human toxicity from consuming raw juneberries, we suggest you consider limiting the amount offered to ¼ cup for infants younger than 12 months of age and ½ cup for toddlers over 12 months of age as there are no studies that have documented how many fresh juneberries a child can safely eat. As with all foods, variety is key.

If you are foraging for your own juneberries, make sure to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the plant and its berries to avoid any poisonous species. Juneberries are notable for a tiny erect crown on one end of each berry, similar to what you find on blueberries. Depending on where you live, potentially toxic plants that also grow dark berries include glossy buckthorn, pokeberry, and some nightshades.

Are juneberries a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. The round shape of a juneberry is a choking hazard for babies. To minimize the risk, flatten each berry between your fingers (or with the back of a fork) or cook them down into a sauce. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are juneberries a common allergen?

No, juneberries are not a common allergen though individuals who are sensitive or allergic to birch trees or who have Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to juneberries.15 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching or burning in the mouth, and it is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Cooking the fruit may help reduce reactions for those who are sensitive.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you introduce juneberries to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Smash fresh or cooked juneberries into a mash (it’s okay if the texture is lumpy) and serve atop of other foods that are easy for baby to scoop up with their hands or cling to spoons such as Greek yogurt, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, etc. Alternatively, you can also cook juneberries into a sauce and serve atop any food that will benefit from a tasty kick. If offering raw juneberries, consider limiting the amount offered to ¼ cup.

9 to 12 months old: Flatten juneberries between your fingers or with the back of a fork so they are no longer round. From there you can serve as a finger food for baby to practice their pincer grasp or continue to mash and serve on top of other food. If offering raw juneberries, consider limiting the amount offered to ¼ cup.

12 to 24 months old: Once a toddler is advancing in their eating skills well, pacing themselves (not stuffing or shoveling) and chewing with intention, you may offer whole juneberries without flattening them. You may want to demonstrate placing the berry between your own teeth and modeling dramatic chewing before offering one to your toddler whole.  Be sure to create a safe eating environment when deciding to serve them for the first time. The toddler should be sitting in an upright highchair—not eating “on the go” in a stroller or the back seat of a car. If a child is not quite ready for the whole berry experience, build up their eating ability by flattening the berries a little less each time you serve. If offering raw juneberries, consider limiting the amount offered to ½ cup.

Need some meal-planning inspiration? Check out our breakfast, lunch, and dinner guides.

Recipe: Easy Juneberry Sauce

Serving Size: ¾ cup (190 milliliters)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 grams) juneberries
  • ½ cup (125 milliliters) water
  • ¼ cup (65 milliliters) orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons (5 grams) arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 1 sprig fresh mint or herb of choice (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash and destem the juneberries.
  2. Whisk the water, orange juice, and cornstarch in a small pot set until combined.
  3. Add the juneberries and the mint if you are using it.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to create a gentle simmer.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juneberries have burst, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the herb sprig. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before serving.
  7. Serve by drizzling a tablespoon (16 milliliters) of juneberry sauce on the child’s food. Juneberry sauce works with sweet and savory dishes alike. Try a drizzle on pancakes, swirl it into ricotta cheese or yogurt, offer it as a dip for gamey meats like lamb, pork, or venison, or mix it into grains like buckwheat or oatmeal. You don’t need much to add bright sweet-tart flavor and purple color to baby’s food. A little goes a long way!

To Store: Juneberry sauce keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Juneberries are sweet and taste like a combination of a cherry and a blueberry. They can also have an almond aftertaste thanks to the soft seeds within, all of which make juneberries great for baking. Try pairing juneberries with other fruit like strawberries, cherries, blueberries, or apples, or giving a savory dish of pork, venison, or beef a bright sweetness from cooked juneberries.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Mazza, G, Cottrell, T. (2008). Carotenoids and cyanogenic glucosides in saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.)Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 21(3), 249-254. DOI: 10.1016/j.jfca.2007.11.003. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  2. Fang, J. (2021). Nutritional composition of saskatoon berries: a reviewBotany, 99(4), 175-84. DOI: 10.1139/cjb-2019-0191. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  3. Majak W, McDiarmid RE, Hall JW. The cyanide potential of saskatoon serviceberry and chokeberry. Can J Anim Sci. 1981;61:681–686. doi: 10.4141/cjas81-082.
  4. Majak W, Udenberg T, Clark LJ, McLean A. Toxicity of Saskatoon serviceberry to cattle. Can Vet J. 1980;21(3):74-76.
  5. Quinton, DA. (1985). Saskatoon serviceberry toxic to deerThe Journal of Wildlife Management, 49(2), 362-364. DOI: 10.2307/3801532. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  6. He, X.-Y., Wu, L.-J., Wang, W.-X., Xie, P.-J., Chen, Y.-H., & Wang, F. (2020). Amygdalin—A pharmacological and toxicological review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 254, 112717. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.112717. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  7. Abraham, K., Buhrke, T., & Lampen, A. (2016). Bioavailability of cyanide after consumption of a single meal of foods containing high levels of cyanogenic glycosides: A crossover study in humans. Archives of Toxicology, 90(3), 559–574. DOI: 10.1007/s00204-015-1479-8. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  8. Lim T. K. (2012). Amelanchier alnifoliaEdible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants, 4, 358–363. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-4053-2_43. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  9. D E Kuliahsari et al Cyanide detoxification methods in food: A review. 2021 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 733 012099
  10. Fang, J. (2021). Nutritional composition of saskatoon berries: a reviewBotany, 99(4), 175-84. DOI: 10.1139/cjb-2019-0191. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  11. He, X.-Y., Wu, L.-J., Wang, W.-X., Xie, P.-J., Chen, Y.-H., & Wang, F. (2020). Amygdalin—A pharmacological and toxicological review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 254, 112717. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.112717. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  12. Abraham, K., Buhrke, T., & Lampen, A. (2016). Bioavailability of cyanide after consumption of a single meal of foods containing high levels of cyanogenic glycosides: A crossover study in humans. Archives of Toxicology, 90(3), 559–574. DOI: 10.1007/s00204-015-1479-8. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  13. Lim T. K. (2012). Amelanchier alnifoliaEdible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants, 4, 358–363. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-4053-2_43. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  14. D E Kuliahsari et al Cyanide detoxification methods in food: A review. 2021 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 733 012099.
  15. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved June 22, 2021.