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Today’s post is brought to you by my stomach. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, I’ve sorely missed my well-developed knowledge and skills of natural foraging any time I was out in the woods or Everglades of my native Florida. In the past three years, I’ve learned quite a bit (and it is still continuing) but not enough to quantify a lifetime of living in a subtropical environment. I’ve found a few favorites that I see regularly, and the one I’m going to tell you about today is extremely bountiful everywhere, particularly in the woods across the street from my home –  the legendary salmonberry.

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Salmonberry Blossom at Sea-Level, Olympia WA

(click any image to enlarge or get more regional/historical information)

The salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), like similarly-related fruits such as blackberries, raspberries, thimbleberries, loganberries, boysenberries, etc. are all members of the rose family. All of them have five-petaled flowers, and produce bright orange berries that are actually clusters of drupelets, each containing a seed. There Is a lot of variation between fruit colors when ripe, and it seems to depend more upon each individual plant instead of location or time of year. Bright orange is typical, but I’ve seen many that were bright red (and delicious!) or even a few that were a dark purple.

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 Pollinated Salmonberry

(as soon as the petals drop the druplets begin to swell and look like what we know as the salmonberry)

Salmonberries are vitally important for many of the denizens of their varying habitats. The leaves and new green shoots are consumed by deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, rabbits, porcupine, and even beaver, while the fruits themselves are relished by a variety of birds, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, bears, chipmunks, pikas, raccoons and a host of other forest wildlife. Hummingbirds, bees and other insects rely on these early spring sources of nectar (sugar calories) for their own survival.

Salmonberries

Fully-Ripe Salmonberries!

(typical wild native color)

These vibrant and somewhat watery fruits are also historically important for humans, as the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest used this bountiful crop for the fresh berries they provided as raw fruit, mixed with oolichan grease (the fat from the candlefish – a local fish similar to smelt) or salmon spawn, or just simply eaten with fresh salmon mixed with roe, as their ripeness incidentally coincided with the spawning of the return of the Chinook salmon who begin their great spring runs up the rivers to spawn (and where the name “salmonberry” originated). Tender shoots were peeled and eaten for their sugary sweetness, and the leaves were eaten raw or steamed.

Salmonberry

 Some Salmonberries can be Bright Red or Even Purple!

Interesting fact: Did you know that the salmonberry as we know it is actually an aggregate of drupelets? These are groups of small berries each containing a seed that form a single cluster from one flower – just like other bramble berries such as raspberries and blackberries.

Salmonberry

Nearly Overripe Just South of Olympia, WA

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Recipes!

Click the name of each fare and the link will take you to various recipes from local foragers and “nomnivores”….

SALMONBERRY JAM

BEAR POOP PIE

BASIC SALMONBERRY VINAIGRETTE

SALMONBERRIES IN THEIR OWN SYRUP

SALMONBERRIES STUFFED WITH COGNAC & MASCARPONE

SALMONBERRIES WITH WINE

SALMONBERRY GAZPACHO

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©2014 Leighton Photography & Imaging