Wild Fruit

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Wild Fruit, Pacific Northwest

Wild Blueberry, BC Coastal Region, Wild Fruit
Wild Blueberry, Photo By Bud Logan

The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have a variety of wild fruit producing plants, vines and shrubs. Some are native to the coast and some are invasive plants. By learning to identify the edible berries, you can enjoy a real healthy food for free and as most native wild fruits are high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients, you can get real benefits from the berries.

You can find blackberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, blueberries, indian plum, currant berries, trailing blackberries, and wild strawberries along with others. This but some that can be found, more are listed in the wild fruit section.

Some of these berry plants have a wide distribution and may be found not just on the coast, but in many areas of North America. No matter where you live, you can find species of delicious fruit for your enjoyment.

If you would like to enjoy growing carefree native fruit bearing plants, there are sources for obtaining them inexpensively or you can collect some plants yourself, but please only take a few and from areas that have many plants so you do not disrupt their ability to feed the birds and animals. Planting native berries will also attract birds and animals to your yard.

Black Huckleberries, Pacific Northwest
Black Huckleberry, Photo By Bud Logan
Black Huckleberries are an erect, deciduous shrub 1 to 2 m tall. The leaves, up to 5 cm long, are elliptical with a long pointed tip and a finely serrated margin. The bell shaped flowers are creamy pink, and are found singly on the underside of the twigs. The berries are large, spherical, sweet, and dark purple or black. In some forms the berries are covered with a waxy bloom; others have shiny dark berries. Huckleberry fruits are an important food source for songbirds, gulls, cranes, pigeons and upland game birds.

Many mammals, from black bears to mice, feed on huckleberries. Herbivores graze on the entire plant, it appears to be a favorite browse of deer. Huckleberries and blueberries form a major part of the black bear’s diet in late summer and fall. Grouse feast on the leaves and blossoms. The fruits, twigs, and foliage are eaten by raccoons, squirrels, deer, elk and mice

Black Huckleberry, Pacific Northwest
Black Huckleberry, Photo By Bud Logan
Huckleberry leaves and finely chopped stems contain quinic acid, a former therapeutic for gout said to inhibit uric acid formation but never widely used because of mixed clinical results. The leaves have been widely used to lower or modify blood sugar levels, particularly in Europe.

Taken on regular basis, huckleberry tea will gradually help alleviate both glycosuria and hyperglycemia and has a benign but useful effect as an adjunct treatment to diabetes mellitus.

Indian Plum, Pacific Northwest
Indian Plum, Photo By Bud Logan
The indian plum is shrub that can grow up to 5 m tall. The stems are clumped and the bark is purplish to brown in color. The Leaves are oblong shaped with a short leaf stalk,  the blades are up to 12 cm long, pale green and smooth above, paler and often sparsely hairy below. If you crush a leave, it will smell like cucumber. It smells very nice.

The flowers droop loosely,  and are up to 10 cm long, they are in clusters that form at the ends of short auxiliary branches. The flowers are mostly uni-sexual. The male and female flowers are on separate plants. The flowers appear very early in the year, just as the leaves are developing.

When the fruits develop, they are like small plums with a large stone, about 1 cm long, bluish black with a whitish bloom, up to 5 per female flower are produced with each containing one stone. They grow in a variety of soil and weather conditions, you can find  them on the south coast islands and corresponding south coast. Although the fruit is edible, it has a bitter taste, best to dry them and eat like large raisins.

Salal Berries, Pacific Northwest
Salal Berries, Photo By Bud Logan
The pacific northwest salal plant can be upright or ground crawling, and grows up to 5 meters in height. Salal growth can be sparse or form a dense barrier almost impossible to penetrate. Salal spreads by suckering layer upon layer and is the most dominant shrub in the BC coastal forest area. The berries are black, reddish blue or dark purple and are up to 10 mm around and somewhat hairy to the touch.

Salal grows from sea level to mid elevations. Salal is found in coniferous coastal forests all over the coast as well as the outer islands. The strong, flexible branches and stems of the salal plant are well designed to withstand the wet heavy snows, they tend to bend instead of breaking.

Salal berries have long been a major food source for BC’s native peoples and settlers learned to make jams and jellies from them. I like to just pick and eat them while on a hike. There is a fairly big business in gathering salal branches to be used in floral arrangements and quite a few people make a living doing just that.

Woodland Strawberries, Pacific Northwest
Woodland Strawberries, Photo By Bud Logan
The Woodland Strawberries are a low perennial with scaly rhizome and long, slender trailing stolons, leaf stalks and flower stems are a greenish or very lightly tinged reddish purple color and lightly to densely hairy. The Leaves are basal; compound with 3 leaflets; each leaflet ovate with straight, prominent veins and no individual leafstalks, somewhat pointed at the tip; margins appearing roughly toothed with the terminal tooth protruding past the two adjacent lateral teeth.

The flowers come in up to 15 on stems that are up to 25 cm long (usually longer than leaves) with white petals that are up to 12 mm long. The Fruit is a small, delicious, red berry with seeds distributed on the surface, they ripen in July.

These Strawberries like to grow in moist open woods, stream banks, and meadows and widespread across the Pacific Northwest.

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