Sipping my rose hip tea I’ll now tell you all about those mysterious wild berries of Alaska that I found……

On my first walk in the woods here in Salcha I immediately noticed wild berries of Alaska with which I was unfamiliar. I made educated guesses on what they all are, but followed that up with a bit of research to further confirm my guesses before eating them.

I look to my guides that I use for nature study as a starting point. Then I do a general internet search looking for three or four reputable websites that clearly indicate what the plants are. Finally I get confirmation from some of the foraging and plant identification Facebook groups to which I belong. (ideally you should belong to at least one that is based in your local area) Ideally I would back that up with an in person confirmation from someone local, but since we are quarantining I just tripled checked with local facebook groups.

Let me reiterate that when eating something from the wild you need to be 100% confident of your identification 100% of the time. Do not eat something unless you are certain because there are many look a likes out there that can make you very sick.

Clues to look for when identifying a berry:

  • leaf shape
  • branch pattern
  • habitat
  • location of berries on the stem
  • seeds in berries
  • how many berries in a cluster
  • stem color and texture

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s where I start. Finding anything unique and unusual about a plant is really the most helpful part of identifying it.

Now that I am confident in my identification of these mysterious wild berries of Alaska I am ready to try them. I will only try one type at a time and only a single berry just to be sure. Even perfectly safe berries run the risk of an adverse reaction in some people.

One thing I can fall back on is that everyone tells me Alaska only has one type of poisonous berry and it tastes so bad that most people spit it out immediately. I’m not sure if that is true though so I am not going to run about tasting wild berries without a bit of research. (Fun Fact: Not everything you read on the internet is true)

Now that I have eaten them and not died I will share with you what I think they are and how they taste (again, I am not an expert. In fact I am totally new at this and really you shouldn’t trust a word I say– find someone who knows)

Wild Berries of Alaska

Wild Berries of Alaska
High Bush Cranberry: These little berries are sweet and tart. If you harvest after a frost they will be sweeter but there might not be any left by then! Great for jam and/syrup
Raspberry? Honestly I’m not really sure what kind of berry this is and since it’s late in the season there are only a few. Alaska has a wide variety of raspberry like berries.
Wild Alaska Berries
Bunchberries: Very mild and bland. I like these but they don’t really have a lot of flavor. They are high in pectin and great to add to jam for thickening.
Wild Alaska Berries
Low Bush Cranberry (AKA Lingonberry): I haven’t tried these yet because they are apparently very bitter before a frost. They are plentiful though and I plan on making lingonberry sauce as soon as the first frost.
Wild Berries of Alaska
Rose hips: These mildly sweet and somewhat pasty fruits can be eaten raw but the seeds are a bit spiny so they are best removed. We enjoy making tea with these.

So that’s pretty much it for late August wild berry in Alaska (at least in the Salcha area– Alaska is a big state). It’s keeping us entertained during our quarantine.

Fun with Fungi……

Now I’ll leave you with some pictures of the beautiful mushrooms I’ve found here in Alaska. I’m not brave enough to identify these on my own but they sure are lovely to look at.

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About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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