Summer Wild Berries
Summer is the berry season here in the Pacific Northwest. Wild berry plants greet you everywhere you walk. Here are some of the more common edible berries.
One of the first types of berry plants to fruit is the Oregon grape, also known as hollygrape because its leaves resemble the holly plant. However, I am not sure why it is called a grape because the fruit neither tastes nor looks like a grape. Rather, you can easily mistake it for a blueberry fruit except that the Oregon grape is smaller in size. When ripe, the Oregon grape is either blue or purple in color.
As the berry is tart and bitter, it is not surprising that most people don’t like to eat it raw or eat it at all. And if they do eat it, they mix it with other berries or sweeten it to make a jam. However, birds like robins and sparrows love them, so do the coyotes and raccoons that inhabit this part of the world.
I was told the Native Americans use the berry for dyes. The root of the Oregon grape on the other hand, has been used for medicinal purposes to treat stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), infections, and to cleanse the bowels. It has also been applied to the skin for a skin disorder called psoriasis and as a disinfectant.
Tall Oregon grape grows to about 6-8 feet (2-2.5m) tall and spreads by underground stems to about 5 feet (1.5m) wide. It may grow slowly at first as it becomes established, then will quickly grow to its mature size.
For more info – http://www.metrofieldguide.com/wildlife-plants-oregon-grape/
Wild blackberries are probably the most common berries in the Pacific Northwest. They can be found in almost all nature parks and preserves here, along the road or in someone’s backyard.
We are fortunate to have wild blackberries growing in a protected greenbelt just behind our backyard and around us. As many of these plants just hung down from our fence, we have been blessed to enjoy them throughout the summer.
The blackberries trail along the ground and can grow to as long as nine metres (29.5 feet). The shoots have very sharp prickles and can tear through denim jeans and so, you got to wear gloves when picking the berries. The prickly thorns are also why these shrubs are referred to as bramble bushes
White or pale pink in color, the flowers come out in early summer or late spring.
Black when they are ripe and red and green while growing, blackberries are rich in antioxidant and a rich source of vitamin C, A, B and E. Depending on the species, they can be very sweet when fully ripened. Since those from our backyard tends to be a little tart, we make ours into jam and into pies and muffins. Eating blackberries is known to reduce cholesterol, and may prevent gum infections and boost brain health.
One distinction between a blackberry and a raspberry or thimbleberry is that when picking a blackberry is that the receptable stays with the blackberry, the receptable stays with the fruit, but not with raspberry and thimbleberry. (refer to the picture of the thimbleberry below)
Blackberries were frequently used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes and for dyes. The leaves have antibacterial properties and are made into tea to threat sore throats, mouth ulcers, diarrhea and thrush.
Blackberries are not just one of our favorite fruits here. Deers love them too – both the fruit and the leaves. If you have blackberries in your backyard, you are almost guaranteed to have deers visiting you often too around here
The peak season for blackberries is summer, from July to September. Yes, we are in the midst of berry harvest. Yum!
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I was taking a walk in a park when I saw two young kids plucking fruits that look like raspberries and putting them into their mouths, the mother close behind. Curious, I asked what they were eating.
Thimbleberry, said the mother and she offered me one. Sweet and juicy! And the taste reminded me a little of the hawthorn berry (haw fruit) I eat in Asia, but with the texture of a raspberry. Those that are bright red are ripe, she said, and urged me to try more. So I did.
As you probably guess, the berry derives its name from the fact it resembles a thimble when you look down from the top. The Thimbleberry’s peak season is from July to August. This plant can be found along the Pacific coast from Alaska to north Mexico.
Unlike the raspberry, the leaves of the thimbleberry are large and look like a three-pointed maple leaf. The fruit is bright or red when ripe and pale pink when growing. When you pluck a thimbleberry, its receptacle and the seed remains on the plant, unlike a blackberry.
While the Oregon grapes has thorny leaves, the leaves of the thimbleberry is soft, and is supposed to be a good natural toilet paper. Something to bear in mind in long hikes and camps.
As with most berries, the thimbleberry is rich in vitamin C and is used to treat scurvy. Thimbleberries also make delicious jams and cakes. I however, prefer to eat it raw, right off the shrub.
Apart from the fruit, the thimbleberry leaf can be made into tea. This is supposed to be good to calm the stomach, treat dysentery and stop vomiting.
For more information: