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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Edible Wild Berries


Edible Wild Berries




Of course, I have to do a disclaimer here.  :)  I'm not an expert.  I check many different sources for information, as you should too.  Compare information and photos from different sources.  Proceed with caution.  I don't try something new unless I'm absolutely certain. "If in doubt, throw it out." 

Having said that, don't let someone's fears of eating something poisonous scare you away from enjoying wild foods.  There are a lot of people who just love putting fear into you about eating anything wild at all, but we used to live off the land.  With a little care, you can make sure you have the right plants.  There are some that are very easy to learn about and some that take more education.  If something is questionable at all, just leave it alone.

Most of the things I post on are things I've eaten myself.  If I haven't tried something yet, I'll make a note of it.  I plan to do a lot more hunting and foraging this year.  ;)  Also, most of the photos are my own. I'm in the northern US; so you may want to look into if these are in your area or not. 


Bearberry

Also called Kinnikinnick.  These are edible but not very desirable, more of a "survival food" to know about in case you get lost or something.  I've seen these since I was a kid but didn't know the berries were edible, so I just now tried them.  They reminded me of a Wintergreen taste.  Most weren't quite ripe yet, but I found one very ripe one to try.  I tried a few that weren't all the way ripe, and it was like biting into sand (but not gritty), just a very dry texture.  Hard to explain really.  blech  These can be eaten raw or cooked, and the leaves can be used to make tea.


Bearberries and Sandcherries

 Bearberry flowers

  Not quite ripe enough yet. 

A ripe Bearberry and a green one.



Blackberries

Not much to say about this one.  This web site page I found has side by side photos of Blackberries and Black Raspberries if you aren't sure which is which.  (click here)


Nice big ones.  :)


Blueberry and Huckleberry

Blueberry flowers.

These are well-known enough for me to not say much on them. I took these photos just a few miles from my home. Wild Blueberries are so sweet! With no special preparation, you can freeze them or dehydrate them. My favorite is to make Wild Blueberry jam. 

Mmmm Wild Blueberries! 

These are the Huckleberries that grow in my area, scattered with the wild 
blueberries.  They are so similar in taste, we just pick them together.  
I actually enjoying picking "the black ones" more. 

These are from one picking trip, a few hours, my sister, my mom, 
and I. This was one of the very good years for picking.



Here is a super easy Blueberry Freezer Jam recipe my friend Lisa shared with me:
4 cups crushed blueberries
2 cups sugar
1  3-ounce package of lemon jello
Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Let stand for 24 hours and then freeze.
Bada bing, bada boom!  ..oh did I mention it's delicious!? 


Bunchberry


Other names include Dwarf Dogwood, Creeping Dogwood, Crackerberry, Canadian Bunchberry, Dwarf Cornel, etc.  The berries are red, mature in late summer, and are edible raw or cooked.  I don't think they have a lot of flavor to them, and they have a crunchy seed inside.  

The flowers.






Canada Mayflower berries
Also known as Wild Lily-of-the-Valley, False Lily-of-the-Valley




The berries are edible, but it's said they can cause diarrhea  in large amounts. I've read some places that the berries tend to be tart, but I didn't think so.  I don't like tart, but I very much like the taste of these.  They actually reminded me of False Solomon Seal berries.  


Juneberry (Amelanchier species)

I know these as "Juneberries" or "Sugarplums".
Some other names are Shadbush, Serviceberry, Wild Pear, Saskatoon, Wild Plum, etc.

Here's a website for more photos and info.  (click here)

One of the signs of spring  here in Michigan is to see these along the roads flowering.  Problem is, the birds love them so much, they aren't always easy to find when they are ripe.  I have a couple secret spots where I can usually pick quite a few.  shhhh  ;)  

These are some particularly large ones I found. 
 (Note, the white tree behind them is a birch tree, not the Juneberry tree.)

Juneberry trees in bloom.


Sandcherry

I tried my first Sandcherries.  They were a little bit tart but pretty good for a wild cherry.  I can see how they would make a good jam or jelly, and they can be used to make syrup or juice. Most of them were still green when I checked on them; but hopefully, I can go back and get enough to make jam later.  The dark black-looking ones are the good ripe ones. 



Update:  I picked a lot of ripe ones yesterday, 8/16, along Lake Superior.  The ripest softest ones are pretty good straight from the bush, but the rest are pretty tart; so I'm using the rest to make jam and jelly.  I made jam tonight.  I normally like jam better because I like the fruit pulp in there, but I think this would make a better jelly.  I'll try that next.  





Wild Black Cherry 

Also known as Rum Cherry or Mountain Black Cherry.
Even though I grew up around these and have some behind my property, I haven't tried the berries yet.  I didn't know, for a long time, that they were edible; and I don't actually remember seeing ripe berries on them.  I think the critters and birds get to them too fast.  This year, I will put some netting on some of the flowers and try the berries and do an update. 

Samuel Thayer, in his book Nature's Garden, says "Black cherry, in my opinion, is the most variable of all wild fruits in flavor.  Some trees produce fruit that is so bitter that it is not only unpalatable but, in my estimation, totally inedible.  Other black cherries are absolutely delicious and rival our best cultivated cherries in flavor."

Wild Black Cherry flowers.

Note what the bark looks like too.




Wintergreen Berries
Also known as American Wintergreen, Teaberry, Boxberry, etc.  If you have had Wintergreen flavored gum or other product, you will definitely recognize the taste.  If you break open a leaf, you can smell the Wintergreen.

This one has both the flowers and berries on it. 
"Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which was scarce. Wintergreen is a common flavoring in American products ranging from chewing gum, mints and candies to smokeless tobacco such as dipping tobacco (American "dip" snuff) and snuff. It is also a common flavoring for dental hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste." (source article)


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