Well, spring in Vancouver has been a little, shall we say, touch & go? One day sunny, and the next two (or five) rainy or gray. I can’t really complain - I am a west coast gal, and have been my whole life. Rain and clouds are facts of life for me. It sounds dreary, I know, but then I also get to live in a RAINFOREST (heaven), don’t have to suffer through frigid winters or worry about water conservation in the summers.
This particular spring though, has left me feeling kinda blah. January to June have seemed like a blur of rain and clouds, with the occasional tease of sun (just enough to prevent the SADD sufferers from going off the deep end)!
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad. I am surrounded by gorgeousness. The trees are dense and green and every day, rain or shine, I have been struck by the abundance of lush gardens. Seriously. The blooms are a riot of colour. On walks with the pooch, I must have taken a zillion photos of flowers (sometimes the same ones over and over again. Don’t judge. I have a weakness for pretty). Spring surrounds me, visually, but that doesn’t always translate into “sun.”
Anyway, never mind the rain, never mind the happy trees and pretty flowers, there is one thing, above all others, that represents spring for me. It reminds me of my childhood on BC’s northwest coast. It’s beloved of hikers, and bears. Kids love to go out into the bushes with buckets to collect it, and mothers love to send the kids out with the buckets – if only to get them out of their hair for a couple hours. Can you guess? If you are a “west coastie” like me, you will know I am talking about the beautiful, hardy, yet humble…SALMONBERRY!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this berry, I will tell you a bit about it. The salmonberry, or Rubus Spectabilis (Hello, Wikipedia!) is a shrub that grows between one to four metres high. It’s found in many places (cause it’s basically a weed), but particularly thrives on the west coast of the US, British Columbia and Alaska. In BC it blooms from mid-June to late July.
The bush, in early spring, blooms with beautiful, bright pink flowers. Then it bears raspberry-looking berries (I think they are actually in the same family). The berries, oddly enough, can be yellowish-orange or red, when ripe. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t think there is a red salmonberry bush and a yellow one. I just grew up knowing you could eat both varieties.
If you don’t know what a salmonberry looks like, FOR GODSAKES DO NOT GO OUT AND EAT EVERY BERRY YOU SEE IN BC THAT RESEMBLES A RASPBERRY!! Do NOT use my photos as your only guide! Sorry to yell, but gosh. I don’t want to be responsible for any berry poisonings! Ack! If you want to eat them, do your research people! Would you eat any mushroom you saw? No. Don’t eat just any berry. Google ‘em, at the least. I know for a fact that there are some similar-looking red berries, on a similar-looking bush, but they are kinda hairy-ish and not as bright.
Okay, warning aside, salmonberries are springtime and childhood all rolled up into one for me. Although they aren’t the best berries on the planet, I think they are tasty and the bears dig ‘em. (True story. Google “Grizzly diet.” I bet it will come up.)
I can’t actually remember my mother sending me out to pick them when I was a kid. To be truthful, pies, jams and jellies are more often made with the usual suspects: strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. I have read, recently (online, 20 minutes ago) that many people find salmonberries to be a bit “watery,” “bitter” or “bland,” and that the berries don’t “cook well.” Hrmph. Fooey to that I say! (Actually, I would never say something so dorky, but it is amazing what one will write as opposed to say. You get the gist though).
Maybe because I have a particular fondness for those pink flowers and yellow and red berries, I have championed the sturdy salmonberry’s cause. I declare the salmonberry delightfully edible!
I have actually made it. Even to locals, who also grew up surrounded by salmonberry bushes, this idea came off as slightly odd. I was in my twenties, danced to my own beat, and thought a berry is a berry is a berry. I roped my mom into helping me make salmonberry freezer jam. I am pretty sure we just followed the freezer jam recipe on the back of the Certo box (c’mon, it’s been a loooooong time since I was in my mid-twenties. My memory can be patchy). It was, surprisingly…. not bad. Not bad at all. I do remember being somewhat surprised myself!
Before writing this post, I googled salmonberry jam and found a few articles/food-blog posts. Fat of The Land has a recipe for salmonberry jam, and a few people posted comments and alternate recipes as well. If you are interested, check it out.
Online, I also came upon a couple recipes for salmonberry pie and a few posts claiming salmonberry wine to be wonderful. I have never made wine myself, but I would be curious to taste a salmonberry version! (clink, clink)
Personally, I think the berries would be wonderful in a salad! Imagine a nice spinach salad with a little feta or goat cheese, some red onion, maybe some almond slivers or pecans (my fave) with some salmonberries on top… a vinaigrette dressing… sounds deeeeelish. I think, on the next dog walk, I may pick a few!
ps: I know that it is now summer, and glorious! I wrote this a few weeks ago, but I have been having some PC/site glitches! It seemed a shame not to post this, especially since it’s still prime salmonberry picking season!