Monday, October 3, 2011

A Bit More on Berries

In the spirit of Unprocessed October, I thought I'd go ahead and post the rest of those native berries I mentioned a while ago. What can be less processed than berries you walked outside and picked yourself?

Sambucus caerulea

These are elderberries.  I had never seen these until last week when my forager, David, brought some to the farmer's market.  They are interesting tiny little berries, they have a fairly large seed compared to the flesh around them, so they're a little crunchy, but they taste great.  David suggested drying them and then using them as you would blueberries in pancakes or muffins or on top of oatmeal.  I used these fresh and made them into cough syrup for my son who's come down with a cold.  =( 

These are snowberries:

(Symphoricarpos albus)
 They might be my favorite native berry, even though they're inedible.  They are just so beautiful clinging to the bare branches in the wintertime.  My bushes don't produce as prolifically as ones that get more sun.  (And are less covered in English ivy...)  *ahem...*

Vaccinium ovatum

These are evergreen huckleberries.  I bought these last Spring and haven't gotten around to planting them yet (eek!) so I don't really know much about these berries.  I assumed they'd be a little larger than this, and probably would have been if I hadn't been such a bad Mommy...

This is a Himalayan blackberry bush...

Rubus armeniacus

If you get a bunch of good berries, this is what happens:

If you get one sour berry, this is what happens:

These will also make you pull that face. 

Mahonia nervosa

These are low Oregon grapes.  They are sour as all get out, though the underlying flavor is pleasant in my opinion.  You know, if you can get past the gut clenching sour part...  There is a very similar looking plant called tall Oregon grape, the berries are more oblong, but rest assured they are still sour enough to suck off the insides of your mouth.

Gaultheria shallon

And these little darlings are salal berries.  They usually grow right next to the Oregon grape and wouldn't you know it?  They're sweet, a little like a blueberry.  I've heard people make jelly out of them and use the Oregon grape as the pectin, though mine barely produce, so I don't have that luxury...  These pictured here are a little smaller than the norm partly because it's so late in the season, and partly because they get very little sun which is great for the plant, but not so great for the berry production.

 Vaccinium deliciosum

And finally, another native huckleberry, the Cascade huckleberry or Cascade bilberry.  These berries are larger and sweeter than most other huckleberries.  Usually around the size of small blueberries.  David hooked me up with some of these this year, too.  They're great in oatmeal with a little chia and molasses!  The Latin name says it all!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, don't eat anything unless you know for sure what it is.   That said, I hope I have encouraged you to find out what edible natives grow in your area and to search them out.  From prickly pears in California, to blackberries in Washington, to teaberries in North Carolina, to dandelions on lawns everywhere, you may be surprised what you can find to nosh on!


  1. Such an interesting post Brooke! Loved reading about all these gorgeous local berries...
    All the best with Unprocessed October!
    I just LOVE the first photo :)

  2. I am so jealous! I want elderberries! We have a volunteer grapevine (not doing much yet, it's very small!) and two year-old blueberry bushes, so I have to be patient and wait. But I can look at your pictures and drool in the meantime!

  3. Amanda, the American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) is a native in most of the US (all but the 7 most Western contiguous states). If you have the space for it, you should check your local nursery or see if there is a forager in your area who can hook you up!

  4. Looking at the elderberries, I want to say "You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" haha. No? Monty Python anyone? What camera do you use, Brooke?? Your pictures are phenomenal! I need to upgrade my camera like no other and your pictures have the look I want...

  5. Hah! Cara! You have no idea how hard it was not to make Python jokes throughout this post... =) My camera is pretty old. You can find much better ones these days, but it's a Nikon D70 with an AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm lens. Fetchez la vache!!

  6. I fart in your general direction!

  7. I told him we already got one!

  8. This is a terrific post! Thanks for sharing your berry knowledge. We live in such a marvelous berry land here. So cool you made your own cough syrup! Stunning photos, too. I love unprocessed October!

  9. Your photo of elderberries is gorgeous! May I have your permission to use it professionally as an herbalist?


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