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Russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis)


Shepherdia canadensis, commonly called Canada buffaloberry, russet buffaloberry, soopolallie, soapberry, or foamberry (Ktunaxa: kupaʔtiǂ,) is one of a small number of shrubs of the genus Shepherdia that bears edible berries. The fruit is usually red, but one species has yellow berries. The berries have a bitter taste. The species is widespread in all of Canada, except in Prince Edward Island, and in the western and northern United States, including Alaska and Idaho. The plant is a deciduous shrub of open woodlands and thickets, growing to a maximum of 1–4 m (3.3–13.1 ft). Some Canadian First Nations peoples such as Nlaka'pamux (Thompson), St'at'imc (Lillooet), and Secwepemc (Shuswap) in the Province of British Columbia extensively collect the berries. The bitter berries are not directly consumed but rather processed as "sxusem", also spelled "sxushem" and "xoosum" or "hooshum" ("Indian ice cream"). Collection involves placing a mat or tarpaulin below the bushes, hitting the branches, collecting the very ripe fruits, mixing with other sweet fruit such as raspberries, crushing the mixture, and then beating of the mixture to raise the foam characteristic of the dish. The berry is both sweet and bitter, and is possibly comparable to the taste of sweetened coffee. The First Nations peoples who prepare it believe that the dish has many healthful properties, but the saponin chemicals which create the foam may cause gastrointestinal irritation if large quantities are consumed. Native themed restaurants in British Columbia have occasionally offered sxusem on their menus in recent years. Unrelated plants in the genus Sapindus produce very toxic saponins and are also commonly denominated "soapberry" along with the edible Canada buffaloberry.

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Magnoliopsida

          • Order: Rosales

            • Family: Elaeagnaceae

              • Genus: Shepherdia