Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unsolicited Education...

In my Huckleberry Jam post, I mentioned a few other Pacific Northwest native berries in my yard that have begun to ripen, so I thought I'd share a little about them, too.  No recipe with this one, just pictures of berries.  Why?  Meh.  I just find it interesting. =)

This is the native Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus.  When I first moved here, I wanted to be sure I was protecting the native plants when I weeded my garden but didn't know the first thing about how to tell the difference between the native and non-native blackberries.  Now I know the native berry hugs the ground on tiny, fairy like vines and produces beautiful, superior tasting, if less prolific, berries whereas the non-native Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) forms giant troll-thickets that will eat you alive and taunt your Happy Fun Ball.  There is nothing subtle about the Himalayan bush.  The berries come on the trailing blackberry first, as you can see, mine are already nearly done, while my Himalayans are still in bloom.  I find the flavor of the native berries far superior, more concentrated and "blackberry" tasting. The Himalayans are much larger, but always let me down in the flavor department.  They are great for cooking with because they are just so darn prolific, so I like to eat the natives plain and save the big boys for adulteration with sugar and pie crust.

Now, on to another black berry but this one is the native black raspberry, Rubus leucodermis.  Again, I was afraid at first that I might confuse this plant with those darn Himalayans, but even though this plant is upright, the canes are much thinner than the Himalayan and also have a slightly powdery looking stem in the Spring.  These berries are a very dark red when completely ripe and will fall off in your hand when ready to be eaten.  These have a very light raspberry flavor, but it is still delicious.  Mine don't produce as prolifically as the Himalayans, but then, what does?

Here is an unripe berry.

 And this is what they look like when green.

And here's what they look like right before I toss them into my mouth!  Nom!

This little lovely is an unripe thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus.  They might well be one of my favorite native plants.  I can't get over the huge, maple-like leaves and the sweet flowers.  I love how the unripe berries are nearly white before turning bright red.  (PS, see that malicious-looking, light green, spike-covered cane to the left of those berries?  That's a new, 1st year cane of a Himalayan blackberry.  They get easily twice that big.  Nasty boogers.)

This one is about a day away from being truly ripe.  They are very delicate.  When you pick them, it's all you can do not to have them crumble in your fingers.  They're called "thimbleberry" because the opening in the top is so big you can easily put your finger in it!  Flavor-wise they are very interesting.  When you put them in your mouth, the first thing you'll notice is how furry they are.  It's a little like peach fuzz in texture.  And then the little thing will just disintegrate into a small, sweet, vaguely raspberry flavored, whisper and be gone.  There's no use trying to use these in any recipe as the plants aren't prolific at all (maybe as many as 10 or 15 berries per bush if you're lucky) and they're so darn fragile you'll never get one home intact, but they are fun to forage!

The evilly attractive flower of the accursed Himalayan blackberry.  (hiss, boo...)  She's Delilah, I tell you.  Lures you in with her promises of pie and jam and then sneaks into your room at night and cuts your hair.  When you wake up, she'll have eaten half your garden and climbed up your trees and the only way to get rid of her is to drop a house on her.
And finally, just because I went on and on about how pretty the plant was in my previous post, here is the foliage of the red huckleberry.  I just love how the little berries hide underneath the leaves like a peek-a-boo game.  Peek-a-boo!  I eat you!  BWAHAHAHAHAAAA!  Uh... *ahem...*  yeah...

As always, if you're not positive what a berry is, don't eat it.  Still, these are all a fairly safe bet since they are so distinctive.

Later on in the year, I'll have some Low Oregon grapes producing, some Salal berries, and hopefully some Evergreen Huckleberries, too.  Very late in the year, I will hopefully have another of my favorite berries, the (inedible) Snowberry.  I'll post pictures of them when they're ripe, too.  Why?  I just find it interesting!

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! I love reading more about local/native fruits and vegetables! SO much to learn :)


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