Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wild berries and one berry bush you should plant in your yard

On my morning walks with the puppy, we see big piles of bear poop.  What I find fascinating is not so much the fact that bears walk the same path as I do, but that we also love the same food: Their poop is full of cherry pits.  Sometimes we see a bear up in a cherry tree, breaking limbs as it climbs up and down and stuffing its face with cherries.

The bears and us love this time of year because it's like a giant candy store in the woods.  Cherries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, red and blue huckleberries, wild strawberries and blackberries - they all entice us to slow down our steps and pick them.  And so we do.  

Going for a walk with Eva can't be called walking this time of year.  She takes a few steps, picks berries straight from the bush into her mouth for half a minute, takes some more steps, picks berries for another half minute, and so on and so on.  

It makes me happy to watch my kids and their friends enjoying this wild food so much.  I can't imagine how much good nutrition these berries are packed with!  

It helps that the picking location is so gorgeous: our local forest, filled with giant cedars, wild creeks, wildflowers and yes, bears.

Red Huckleberries

At some point the boys' friend (the pink-haired dude) found a garter snake and held it up in the air, which freaked Eva out.  Her 13-year old brother Kai decided now was a good time to tell her the snake would come chase her, which resulted in loud, panicky wails from Eva and a stern talking-to from me to my eldest son.

He's usually very kind, but he must have felt like showing off in front of his friend.  In our family, I don't tolerate unkindness (even though I understand the role of bigger brothers usually involves some teasing of younger ones), so when Eva and I caught up with the boys ten minutes later, Kai was waiting for her with a hand full of huckleberries that he had picked for her as a peace offering.  Now that's better, dude!

Yep, that's tears.  You know, because snakes are chasing her.

These lessons learned out in the woods are priceless, and observing my children interact with their world warms my heart unless it doesn't when one of them is being a pain.  Most of the time, I feel blissed out when we're out here.  I mean, look at this: we are picking berries and are probably getting one million times the antioxidants and vitamins we need, the scenery is gorgeous, the puppy happily frolics, and I deeply breathe air that smells like moss, ferns and cedars (and bear poop).

By the way, I am not worried about the bears, not at all.  We don't have grizzly bears here but rather shy, more elusive black bears.  They are more scared of us than we of them, and wouldn't you be terrified to hear loud humans shrieking about berries and snakes?

What else are we picking?  Check it out.  Here are my favorites - thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus). They have such an unique taste, almost like apricots.

Salmon berries!  There are red ones and golden ones, and they are the first berries of the season, so we have to race the birds to get them, since our feathered friends love them as much as we do.

Wild strawberries!  They are tiny but incredibly flavorful.

Here are little native trailing blackberries, which are not black yet but are working on it.  We'll be ready for them.

And here's the thing: we are not only stuffing ourselves with wild berries, but also berries we planted in our garden.  When we first bought our property 14 years ago, we planted several varieties of less common hardy superfood berries.

While many people only plant blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, we wanted to take it a step further and planted Goumiberries (Elaeagnus multiflora), Seaberries or Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), and Aronia berries (Aronia melanocarpa).  

Granted, these berries are not as sweet and delicious as the more common ones, but they are even more superior in nutrition.  For example, Aronia berries have the highest concentration of antioxidants than any other fruit.  Goumi berries have the highest lycopene content of ANY fruit, which means they are a powerhouse and anti-cancer food.

If you can plant only one of these, I would recommend to make it a Goumi!  We eat as many as we can fresh and freeze the rest.

Sometimes, I can't find the kids anywhere, and when I yell their names, they answer me from under the Goumi berry bush, picking and eating berries by the handful.

What's your favorite berry?


  1. Wow! Such a beautiful setting and such an abundance of wild food. I haven't even heard of some of the berries you mentioned!

    1. Charlotte, that's why I thought I would write a blog post on this: to introduce people to these super nutritious berries! Glad you learned something!

  2. I'm tempted to be sassy and say Watermelon is my favorite berry but even though it is technically a berry it is not my favorite berry. Although I like it very much! My favorite, for true, berry must be a sun ripened fresh strawberry picked right off the vine and popped into the mouth. Wild blackberries are a strong second.

  3. hmm let's see;
    Dog walking in the woods... check
    Annoying big brothers and shrieking little sisters or a version of that... check
    Bears in the immediate vicinity..... check
    Berries.... nope, not a single one in view...yet.

    yes, we had bears in the village. 4 of them; a mother, a yearling and 2 new borns. And that yearling is not really common as I understood it. Strawberries, raspberry and wild strawberry are in full bloom. Blackberry and blueberry are setting fruit right now.

    1. Ron, where exactly are you located in the world, and what kinds of bears do you have?

    2. Dalarna, Sweden and they're general brown bears

  4. Our Nankings are ripe right now, and I can't get enough of them! They're great for nibbling on while working in the yard or playing in the pond. We only recently planted these (two years ago), so this is the first year we've had much fruit.
    Oh shoot! You said berry, and these aren't berries. That's really how they're used, though, and the bushes are nice and low. I think the definition of berry ought to include "not needing a ladder to harvest." Under that definition, these are berries, ha!
    Here's some information on Nankings, since they're not widely known.

    1. Huh, I've never heard of Nankings, but with a fun name like that, I ought to know about them. I will check out the link you sent as soon as I'm done making cheese today! Thanks!

  5. We've only just started getting strawberries. The wild blackberries are flowering right now, and should be ready within a month. We have wine raspberries (rubus phoenicolasius maxim) flowering, as well. As kids, my mother would pick as many as she could before all us kids could get to them (me, my sister, my brother, our cousin and all our friends)...otherwise we wouldn't get raspberry jam for winter.

    1. Smart Mama! There's a lot of competition around here as well. Plus, I didn't mention that our puppy loves to eat the berries and picks them straight from the bushes with her greedy little mouth.

  6. Thank you for sharing all these lovely berries. It appears goumi berry won't grow here in NC, but we are looking into the aronia berries. I've had sea buckthorn on my want list for a while. My favorite tasting berry so far has been mulberry, though the past couple of years the birds & squirrels beat us to them. We let the tree get too large to be practical. I also love elderberry for their good medicine. We planted goji berries & honeyberries last year, which haven't fruited yet. Also have some raspberries, blueberries & wild blackberries. Good food!

    1. Laurie, too bad Goumi won't grow in NC! Aronias are great, too! I would love to have goji berries, but they won't grow here.

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