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  • Writer's pictureTribe Pilot

Edible Berries of the Pacific Northwest

If you're like me you have spent a lifetime walking through the outdoors, encountering berries, and because of a lack of knowledge assuming that they are all poisonous. Sure you can likely identify a blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, potentially even a Huckleberry, but beyond that you don't risk eating the mystery berry, due to fear of the outcome. This guide is meant to change that, and give you confidence in picking your way through the forest trying the berries you encounter.

All the berries listed here are perfectly suitable for consumption but with varying degrees of satisfaction and flavor. From the prized huckleberry and wild strawberry to the not so tasty Mountain Ash Berry. Read on and enjoy, and if you would like to contribute to this list shoot us a note. Special thanks to Douglas Deur and his book Pacific Northwest Foraging whos book inspired this post.

Blackberry (Himalayan Blackberry)

Rubus armeniacus

This menace of the Pacific Northwest is an invasive species that has taken over may of the wetter climates, choking out native plants. It’s just too bad the berries are so wonderful.

The Plant:

This thorny aggressively spreading shrub will take over regions with its entangled heaping growth. When left unchecked it will consume large areas of forest or meadow making them impassable to wildlife and choking out native species. It is readily found at the intersection of human and wild spaces, along highways, bounding parking lots, in backyards, and public parks. It should be removed as often as possible. The flowers come in white or pink, and turn into plump juicy blackberries loved by all wildlife including birds, various mammals, bears, and humans.


The berries are plump, juicy, and sweet. Their deep dark color and softening signals ripeness. Pick directly from the vine in sunny areas for the best flavor. Avoid picking where automobile traffic can leave deposits on plants and berries.

Typical Use:

It’s sweet plumpness has limitless possibilities

All the typical pastries, pies, breads, and baked goods

Ice-cream, milkshakes, juices

Spreads, jams, jellies, sauces, marinades

Add to fruit salads, make glazes, etc.

Pacific Blackberry (California Blackberry, California Dewberry, Douglas Berry, Pacific Dewberry, Trailing Blackberry)

Rubus ursinus

The only native blackberry in the PNW, this is a less common but more welcome species of blackberry.

The Plant:

A large mounding bramble spreading shrub that grows to 5 feet tall (about 2 m) but spreads to about 6 feet (2m) wide. The leaves come in 3's with toothed perimeters, flowers are white or yellow in spring and turn into the berries in summer. Sweeter than its invasive cousin the Himalayan Blackberry, these are often preferred by those with a discerning taste. They grow on forest edges, or in disturbed ground like logged land.

The Berries:

Similar to traditional blackberries but slightly firmer with less juice.

Pluck individually from the vine

Typical uses:

The new green shoots can be harvested and eaten raw or cooked

The berries go well in pastries, pies, muffins

Eaten fresh from the vine

Jams, jellies, sauces

Use as toppings, or in fruit salads

Flavor deserts and beverages

Black Hawthorn Berry:

Crataegus douglasii

A tart berry that grows on a formidable thorny bush on the western side of the Cascades. The berries are best used in sauces, beverages, and spreads.

The plant:

Found in abundance in clearings and thicket margins on the wetter western side of the Cascades and Coast Ranges into Canada. The Black Hawthorn is a thorny shrub, with serrated leaves. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall.


In spring dense clusters of white flowers form, and develop into the purple or black berries roughly a half inch in diameter. The fruits are edible but tart and dry with large seeds.

Typical Uses:

Can be eaten raw, but tartness steers most away.

Add color and kick to sauces, drinks, and spreads.

Great for jams and jellies.


Vaccinium alaskaense, - Alaska Blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium- oval leaf blueberry

Wild blueberry can be stumbled upon in the higher elevations and is a rare treat among explorers and hikers.

The Plant:

Similar to the blueberries you find in the store, the Pacific Northwest has a population of wild blueberries that are similar in form and state to the farm grown variety you’re used to. Partial to old growth, or original growth forest they enjoy filtered light. The oval green leafed deciduous plants grow up to 5 feet tall (1.5m).

The Berries:

Look just like all blueberries

Typical Uses:

Jams, Jellies, Pies, topping, you know the story

Bunchberry Dogwood (Dwarf Cornel)

Cronus canadensis

A dwarf dogwood, the smallest of the genus, is a ground covering shrub with vibrant green pointy leaves and white flowers, before they turn into red berries.

The plant:

At only 4 to 8 inches (10 - 20 cm) tall this perennial herb makes great ornamental ground cover. The leaves are oval with pointy tips with veins running parallel to the leaf length. White flowers form at the center of leaf clusters, that later turn to bright red berries. It likes moist environments rich in organic matter such as bogs and wet forest floors in shaded filtered light.

The Berries:

Clusters of berries form at the center of leaf clusters, they are not appetizing but edible. Larger softer fruits signal ripeness.

Typical Uses:

Berries are not super appetizing so are often mixed with other berries

Often cooked into jams,


Vaccinium oxycoccus

Found growing from sphagnum patches in the bogs and wetlands of Oregon and Washington, it is a true cranberry in design and taste.

The Plant:

A creeping plant of the heath family, found in wet bogs. Vine like stems with lance shaped leathery leaves measure about a centimeter long. Pink flowers form that develop in summer, varying by climate and site specifics. The habitat is generally delicate so tread lightly.

The Berries:

About half inch (1.2 cm) in diameter, pink or red in color and look like the typical image of a cranberry.

Typical Uses:

Can be eaten raw or dried

Baked in breads, and muffins

Best accompanied by sweeter accoutrements

Chokecherry (Bitter Cherry, Bird Cherry)

Prunus virginiana

Closely related to the Black Cherry this perennial shrub or tree has, less tasty bitter fruit.

The plant:

A shrub or tree that grows from three to 20 feet tall (1- 6 m) with reddish brown, often scaly, bark streaked with white bands. The leaves are pointed and finely serrated ranging from 1 to 3 (2.5 to 9 cm) inches in length. Large clusters of white flowers (racemes) develop in late spring measuring one to four inches long ( 4 to 10 cm). Chokecherry grow in moist areas like next to streams and rivers


Berries form from the racemes and are therefore also clustered. The appear from vibrant red to almost black form in early summer months.

Typical uses:

Bitter flavor begs for mixing and sweeting

Jams and Pies


Coastal Black Currant (Coastal Black Gooseberry, Spreading Gooseberry)

Ribes divaricatum

As the name suggests, this shrub is found in the wetter temperate forests near the coast. Berries are of the few that can be eaten raw without much augmentation.

The Plant:

The deciduous shrub can grow up to about 10 ft (3 m) tall with thorny branches and the leaves are lobular maple like, or palmate shape, with fuzzy underbelly. Flowers form in small hanging clusters (inflorescence) in red, pink, or purple. Found in coastal, or damp forests, often in rocky areas.


The flower clusters will form into berry clusters that turn black and plump when ripe.

Typical Uses

Good eating fresh from the shrub

Good dried and mixed with nuts

Good in baked goods, and pies

Experiment with juice in drinks and cocktails

Prickly Currant (Black Gooseberry, Swamp Currant, Swamp Gooseberry)

Ribes lacustre

A member of the Ribes genus which contains 120 world wide species including currant and gooseberry.

The Plant:

This deciduous shrub grows erect spreading from 1 to 6 feet. (.5 to 2m), it’s defensive thorns can be dense and formidable. The leaves, about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, are shaped, in general like a maple, but with deep serrations or lobes instead of crisp edges. They prefer wet landscapes along streams, lakes, wetlands, or bogs with rich humous soil, or wooded environments rich in organic matter. Small white, flowers develop in limited bunches that mature into dark berries. This plant can be considered invasive in certain environments, for instance it is prohibited in Michigan.

The Berries:

The berries take on an appearance of ripe, before tasting as such. Prickles Currant is a tasty berry, if it tastes otherwise it likely isn’t fully ripened yet. Seek the biggest softest berries.

Typical Uses:

Great in jams, jellies, and sauces

Liqueurs and whines are made from them

Great in pastries and other baked goods

Red Currant

Ribes triste

A member of the ribes genus which contains 120 world wide species including currant and gooseberry.

The Plant:

Unlike the prickly currant the Red is a smaller thornless shrub. Growing 3 to 5 feet (1.5 to 2m) tall, with three lobed leaves with serrated edges. A hardy plant that grows across the PNW, up into Alaska and Canada. Purplish flowers form in spring that develop into bright red berries.

The Berries:

Tart 1/2 inch (12mm) berries form in spring. Pick individually or rake of branches. Can taste closer to cranberries than its cousins.

Typical Uses:

James, Jellies, Sauces

Wines, and drink flavoring

Baked goods such as pies and pastries

Stink Currant (Skunk Currant, Blue Currant, Grayberry)

No Picture available

Ribes bracteosum

Don’t let the skunky smell of this plant deter you from the sweet berries.

The Plant:

Loving the wet coastal environment and stream beds where moisture stink currant likes it damp. Large serrated maple like leaves grow as big or bigger than your hand. When kicked, or crushed the leaves give off a foul skunk like smell. The shrub can grow from 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3+ meters) tall. White flowers form along a central stem turning into dangling berries by summer.

The Berries:

Blue or dusty blue they are sweet and delicious when ripe

Taste varies by plant and environment so don’t give up on a bad bush

Typical Use:

Best cooked into jams, jellies, syrups, baked goods, pastries


Sambucus app

There are two common species of elderberry in the PNW, Red and Blue. Both can be found throughout the region and the tasty fruits are wonderful, though lesser known than others such as huckleberry. In general avoid eating the red ones. If you do, be sure to cook first.

The Plant:

Elders can be found throughout the PNW the blue, in the drier climates and mountain regions, while Red grow in wetter lower climates. Generally its form is that of a small tree 5 to 20 feet (2.5 - 7 m) tall, leaves are lance shape and come in pinnate clusters of 5 to 9 leaves ranging from two to eleven inches in length (5-30 cm). Flowers form in flat clusters that develop into berry clusters.


High in vitamin B6 and iron

Berries can be blue or red, red should be avoided unless cooked

A softening of the berries signals ripeness, but you must beat the birds

You can pick, rake, or shake the berries from the trees

Traditionally they have been used to make dyes

Typical Uses:

Mix into berry medley

Bake into breads, muffins, cakes, pies

Dry and crush to sprinkle over ice creams a sweetener

Make into jams and jellies, and Elderberry Syrup

Flavor ice cream

Add to salads

Flowers can also be eaten in salads

Flowers can be dipped in batter and fried

Check out this recipe for Elderberry Sauce

Gooseberry (Sticky Gooseberry, Gummy Gooseberry, Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberry, Red-flowered Gooseberry)

Ribes lobbii

Widely used in gardening for its fuchsia like flowers, it is a beautiful ornamental shrub with the bonus of berries.

The Plant:

Widely cherished for its flowers and often called the fuchsia flowering gooseberry because of the resemblance of the flowers to fuchsia. The shrub grows from 18 inches to about 3 feet (.5 to 1m) tall. It is deciduous, shade intolerant, perennial. The leaves measure about 1/2 to 1 inch (12 to 16 mm) in diameter are ovate, toothed and have 3 to 5 rounded lobes. It can be found near dry stream beds, rocky outcropping, forest floors, where drainage is good and altitude is low. The flowers are brilliant pendulous with red outer sepals that curl up away from the white inner petals, and long dangling anthers extend below the petals.

The berries:

A dark purple or blue, less flavorful than many berries in the region, they can have rough bristles on the exterior and are somewhat sticky.

Typical Uses:

Jams, jellies, spreads, pies

Often mixed with other berries to diversify the flavor


Black (Mountain) Huckleberry

Vaccinium membranaceum:

If berries were jewels, then this would be the diamond of the PNW berries. The huckleberry is, in my opinion, the tastiest native berry in the region. Indigenous people cultivated impressive and productive patches of these berries for many hundreds of years, using such methods and burning and casting throughout the Cascade range. Good productive patches can be found in thickets and under forest canopies that will fill a bucket in just a few minutes.

The Plant:

Found in the high altitudes of the Cascade and Coast ranges where fires have burned through. A deciduous shrub with lance like leaves and trailing stems. The leaves are finely toothed with a lighter underbelly. The shrub grows up to 6 ft tall (2m), and is often found in thickets. Flowers, with 4 to 5 petals are pink and lantern or urn shaped.


The flowers develop into deep purple and deep red (almost black) berries that resemble small blueberries. They ripen later than many PNW berries, in mid to late summer, often into the early autumn months. They are easily picked individually, though special berry rakes can also be used.

Typical Uses:

In the small mountain towns of the Pacific Northwest you will find the berries in many delicacies including pies, ice cream, and jams and jellies though the berries need no help as they are delicious on their own.

Bog Huckleberry (Bog Blueberries):

Vaccinium uliginosum

Cousins to the Black (Mountain) Huckleberries they are equally sweet and desirable.

The Plant:

At three to 9 feet tall (3m), this is a lower growing deciduous shrub than its cousin. Found in the margins of wet lands, or bogs, occasionally around mountain lakes. Brown stems with light green oval leaves up to 1 inch (30 mm) long. Small pink flowers form in spring and early summer that develop into the berries.

The Berries:

Dark purple, dark blue, even black berries form. Similar in shape and size to Black Huckleberry. Pick one by one, or raking from the shrub.

Typical Uses:

Can be eaten right off the bush

Mixed with other berries into a medley

Baked goods including breads and muffins and pies

A sweet pop to ice cream

Can be frozen, dried, or canned for later use

Evergreen Huckleberry (Winter Huckleberry)

Vaccinium ovatum

Evergreen huckleberries are a resilient lot, sticking around long into autumn and far longer than other berries in the region providing a food supply when others have dried up.

The Plant:

The evergreen cousin in the huckleberry family this shrub uniquely forms berries along its branches almost like they are growing from the woody stalks. The plant grows from a 1 to roughly 9 feet (.3 to 3 m) in height, with lance finely serrated green leaves measuring roughly an inch long (2.5 cm). Pink flowers develop into black or dark blue purple berries. The shrub can be found on the wet side of the Cascades all the way to the coasts along streams, lake margins, and forrest clearings. Distinctively the berries form in mid summer, but stick around long past when all other berries have disappeared. You may even find a few huckleberries in winter, if they managed to miss the birds' attention.

The Berries:

Similar in shape and size to other huckleberries, they are dark in color, crisp when bitten and extremely delicious.

Typical Uses:

Can be eaten right off the bush

Mixed with other berries into a medley

Baked goods including breads and muffins and pies

A sweet pop to ice creme

Can be frozen, dried, or canned for later use

Red Huckleberry

No Picture Available

Vaccinium parvifolium

The most common Vaccinium in the coastal ranges of the PNW.

The Plant:

Found throughout the region, this deciduous shrub likes filtered light at altitudes ranging from sea level up to about 6000 feet (1800 m). It grows from 3 to 12 feet (1 to 4 m) tall, with bright green leaves measures from 1/2 to over an inch (10 to 30mm). It is one of the first shrubs to produce berries in the spring and the berries are often abundant though the summer months. Small white or pink lantern like flowers develop into red berries.

The Berry:

A red juicy tart berry, good off the vine, mixed with other berries

Dried it keeps well as a snack or mixed with nuts

More tart than its darker cousins it leans toward the cranberry in taste

Grows from early spring into autumn

Typical Uses

Jams, jellies, sauces

Baked goods such as breads and pastries

Natives used the berries in fishing due to its resemblance to a salmon egg

Juniper Berry

Juniperus communis, Juniperus occidentalis

Prevalent in the high desert country east of the Cascades the juniper trees, though native, have gone unchecked by fire in recent history causing them to overpopulate and spread wildly.

The Tree and Shrub:

Juniper trees are a conifer prevalent across the high desert east of the Cascades. Its close cousin comes in a low ground cover. The foliage is made from branching twig-like subtle clusters. It smells distinctly like, well juniper or gin for those less familiar. The bark is fibrous running in vertical peal-able strips. The tree can grow up to 30 ft. (10 m) tall. A mature juniper 18 inches in diameter can “drink” up to 30 gallons of water per day. Due to lack of fires, and their massive thirst, trees are often thinned to leave much needed desert precipitation to other native growing plants.

The Berries:

The berries are a dusty blue and very bitter. They can be eaten raw but are not palatable to most. Berries stick around for a long time, and can be found throughout the summer. When ripe they will fall off the tree with a simple shaking of branches, place a tarp or cloth under the tree to collect.

Typical Use:

The berries are flavorful but not typically used or consumed alone

They are widely used as the prime flavor in gin

Used to flavor other drinks and liqueurs

Can be a complimentary flavor in soups

Can season meats and vegetable casseroles

The powerful scents are popular in soaps, candles, and cosmetics

Oftentimes juniper is used in herbal medicines and poultices

Kinnikinnick (Barberry)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick has been used for hundreds of years by native people for both it’s recreational effect (mildly narcotic when smoked), and as a traditional medicine.

The Plant:

Kinnikinnick has long been used by Indigenous people for smoking and is said to have mild narcotic effects. It is a low creeping evergreen that spreads over its habitat along rocky outcropping, along water boundaries, an in coastal regions. The leaves are small and oval in shape, light to dark green and somewhat waxy. Pink flowers form in spring that transform into small red berries.

The Berries:

The berries are small and red or even pink. They form in abundance in spring, and can be eaten by mid summer, but are not as tasty as others found in the region. They can be picked individually, though because the leaves are also desirable selecting a few choice branches to harvest (without compromising the entire shrub) is a simpler method.

Typical Uses:

Berries can be used in berry medleys to mask taste

The leaves however can be dried and used in teas, smoked, or in a poultice

It contains antimicrobial properties, is a mild diuretic

Traditionally used for bladder and urinary tract infections

Mooseberry (Squashberry, Highbush Cranberry)

Viburnum edule

A berry plant that keeps it’s fruit long into winter, providing rare nutrients in the colder months.

The Plant

Mooseberry is often referred to as Highbush Cranberry, or squashberry, however it is not an actual cranberry. The shrub grows from 2 to 11 feet tall (.75 to 4 m). The branches are red, with green lobed (typically 3) and serrated palmately veined leaves. The underbelly of the leaves has a fuzz or small hairs. White or yellow flowers form in clusters in spring that develop into berry clusters by early to mid summer. The plant prefers the wetter coastal climates of the Pacific Northwest.


The berries are vibrantly red, and can be picked early for ripening off the vine, or later. They sweeten with age and remain on the plant long into winter.

Typical Uses:

Let ripen over time, even keeping them hydrated to further sweeten

Can be saved long into winter for a splash of flavor and color

Can be eaten raw or cooked, and added to dishes as a pop of flavor

Great for jams, jellies, or spreads

Mountain Ash

Sorbus scopulina - western mountain ash, Sorbus sitchensis - Sitka mountain ash

This showy tree or shrub populates the Pacific Northwest and is a favorite for ornamental purposes in landscaping. It produces brilliant colors in fall.

The Tree/Shrub:

Mountain ash trees are common across the Northwest, populating both wild and domestic landscapes. The tree grows from 10 to 30 feet (3 - 10 m) tall. It’s distinct green leaf pattern (serrated pinnately compound) make the tree easily identifiable, once you know what to look for. Similarly the Sitka mountain ash is a multi stem shrub that grows from 3 to 20 feet (1 to 7 m). White flower clusters form in spring and turn into large berry clusters of 20 to 40 per bunch in fall. This tree puts on a brilliant show in fall with vibrant, yellows and oranges.


Berry clusters of bright red can be picked

The berries are tart, and extremely palatable right from the branch

They form in late summer to early fall

A favorite among bird populations

Typical Use:

Best sweetened in jams, jellies, juices

Dry the berries or add to baked goods

High in vitamin C, the berries are used in many herbal medicines

Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium, Mahonia nervosa

The state flower of Oregon, the Oregon Grape is a medium shrub with holly like leaves. Berries are edible but not tasty.

The Plant:

A shrub found throughout the Cascades. There are 2 types the dull-leafed found primarily in the wetter western slopes, and the tall found in the drier eastern climates. It is a medium shrub growing from 2 to 10 feet (.75 to 3.25 m) tall. The leaves are holly like with spiny tips, pinnately compound alternately arranged on the stem. Yellow flowers turn to dark purple or blue berries about 1/4 inch (1 cm) in diameter.

The Berries

Deep blue or purple with a dusty appearance, they are edible right off the vine, though they are quite sour, or dried for later consumption. The large seeds should be removed. Berries can be raked off in clusters with your fingers. High in vitamin C.

Typical Uses:

The roots, bark, and leave have an antimicrobial agent similar to golden seal.

The berries are sour but often eaten right from the plant

Dry for use in trail mixes and cereals

Popular in jams, jellies, and drink flavoring

When dried they were ground into flour by native Americans

Useful in blue dyes and paints

Osoberry (Indian Plum)

Oemleria cerasiformis

The only member of the genus oemleria, Osoberry shrubs are among the first to leaf out and produce fruit in spring, making them an early ally of indigenous people.

The Plant:

The Osoberry (Indian Plum) is a shrub that grows up to 15 feet tall (5 m), with oval or oblong light green leaves 2-5 inches (5 - 13 cm) and red stalks. Early foliage has a cucumber-like smell and taste. White flowers form early, even before leaves fully form, they are white pendulous about 1 cm long. The fruit forms in ovoid drips about 1/2 inch long and is popular with birds.

The Fruit:

Ovoid about 1/2 inch long

It starts bitter but once dark purple or blue-black it becomes sweet

Often likened in taste to watermelon

Pick one at a time or in groups

Typical Uses:

Remove large pit before eating

Can be eaten fresh off the shrub

Great in jams, jellies, sauces

Complimentary to baked goods

Bark can also be used in teas

Raspberry (Red Raspberry, Wild Raspberry, Black Raspberry, Trailing Raspberry)

Rubus idacus, Rubus leucodermis, Rubus padatus

As with many of the Rubus genus the leaves, shoots, and berries are great for eating.

The Plant:

The raspberry is a quintessential berry of the northwest. They grow in brambles that heap and mound though not as large or imposing as the blackberry cousins. Leaves come in sets of three to five with serrated edges. They grow throughout the PNW with the 3 primary varieties listed here occupying virtually every corner of the forested region (not desert).

The Berry:

Depending on the genius the berries can vary from bright red (Rubus idacus, and Rubus padatus) to black (Rubus leucodermis). Like its cousins the berries are juicy and sweet. Plumpness and softness indicate ripeness and are best gathered individually.

Typical Uses:

Fresh green shoots can be plucked and eaten fresh or steamed

Leaves can be dried and made into teas

Berries are widely used in all manner of dishes

Jams, jellies, milkshakes, ice-creme, drinks

Pastries, muffins, baked goods, frostings

Rose Hips (Rild Rose, Prickly Rose, Wood Rose, Nootka Rose, Prairie Rose)

Rosa aricularis - prickly rose, Rosa gymnocarpa - wood rose, Rosa nutkana - Nootka rose, Rosa woodsii - prairie rose

Wild roses can be found through the Pacific Northwest and are bountiful for harvesting.

The plant:

The wild rose can take many different forms and are unlike the typical Valentine's bouquets. They mature at 3 to 9 feet tall (1 to 3 m) with thorny stalks. Leaves are pinate with 3 to 7 serrated ovate leaflets. The flowers come in a brilliant pink with yellow center. The flowers develop into berries or hips that are delicious.

The Berries:

Rose hips are delicious round or urn shaped, plump and red in color. Pick one by one, split open and scrape out the seeds and other undesirables, then eat. Flavors can vary so experiment, all are delicious.

Typical Uses:

Fresh green shoots can be plucked and eaten similar to raspberry and blackberry.

Petals can be used to make salads, flavor dishes, dried for teas, soups, baked goods

The berry can be eaten fresh or dried for later consumption

Great in baked goods and pastries


Gaultheria shallon

A relative of the manzanita found from the coast to the western edge of the Cascades.

The Plant:

Salal can be found in abundance west of the cascades all the way to the coastal margins. It’s an evergreen that grows up to 16 feet (5 m) tall and can dominate an area where conditions are right making it useful in hedgerows. The leaves are ovate, finely veined, finely toothed. Pink or white urn shaped flowers develop, cascading along a central stem. Flowers turn into berries with distinct 5 pointed star on bottom.

The Berries:

A staple of indigenous peoples, mentioned in Lewis and Clark expedition.

The berries are abundant and harvested for year round use

Flavorful depending on conditions

Distinguished by a 5 pointed star on the bottom of the berry, wash well as this can also collect undesirable passengers.

Typical Uses:

Eaten right from the vine or mixed into various medleys

Traditionally baked into cakes

Jams, jellies, sauces, dressings


Rubus spectabilis

A species of brambles and a member of the rose family, salmonberries are delicious.

The Plant:

This deciduous perennial shrub grows from 3 to 12 feet (1 to 4m) tall, preferring the wetter climates west of the Cascades especially in coastal regions. They can be found in open clearings, along streams and water bodies. New shoots grow up from the ground each year and can also be eaten. As the stems mature they become spiney. The leaves are trifoliate and sharply toothed measuring about 3 to 8 inches (7 to 22 cm). The timing of the berries coincides with the chinook salmon runs and were typically paired together.

The Berries:

Tasty berries resembling raspberries or blackberries in shape. The color can range from yellow to pink. Best picked individually and eaten fresh.

Typical Uses:

Best picked and eaten as soon as ripe

They do not dry or keep well, so savor them early and often

Jams, and jellies

Atop salads, or deserts

Can be baked into pies, or made into ice creme

Serviceberry (Saskatoon Berry, Juneberry, Shadbush, Canadian Serviceberry, Apple Serviceberry)

Amelanchier alnifolia

A large shrub or small tree that can form into large thickets.

The Plant:

The service berry is a large deciduous shrub or small tree. A mature serviceberry can grow from 15 to 25 feet (5 to 8m) tall. However it comes in so many varieties that it is difficult to describe in any definitive nature. The leaves are ovate and finely serrated. The wood was traditionally used in tools, and crafts such as arrow shafts, fishing rods, tool handles, due to it’s formable nature. White flowers come in early spring and develop into berries by mid to late summer. It has a native variety in every US state but Hawaii. In the PNW it likes the dryer climates of the eastern cascades, though can be found on the west as well.

The Berries:

The berries are about 1/2 inch (12mm) in diameter, colors can be red, pink, purple, and blue. Flavor varies greatly based on ripeness, and local conditions.

Typical Uses:

Great in pies, jams, jellies

Eat right from the shrub

Dry the fruit and eat later or in trail mixes or fruit mixes

Natives made it into berry cakes for preserving

Whines and drinks are becoming a popular use for this berry

The leaves are often consumed in teas

Soapberry (Buffalo Berry, Soopolallie)

Shepherdia canadensis

This unique berry can be whipped into a froth with other berries giving them their name, this delicacy has been called Indian ice cream.

The Plant:

A deciduous plant growing 3 to a maximum of about 12 feet (1 to 4 m) tall. It is one of the few Shepherdia that produces edible fruits. Small oval leaves are green to dark green with a white fuzz on the underbelly. Preferring the wetter climates especially around Puget Sound, British Columbia, and Alaska the berries were widely traded among indigenous people for the unique qualities of this berry. Yellow flowers from into berries as the season progresses.

The Berries:

Harvesting these berries is performed by putting a tarp or blanket under the shrub and beating with a stick to release the berries.

Typical Uses:

Though they can be eaten right from the branch, their foaming properties are unique and should be witnessed. The berries should be pulverized with other flavorful berries and whipped into a froth creating a sweet delicacy.

Strawberry (Wild Strawberry, Beach Strawberry, Tall Strawberry, Blue-leafed Strawberry)

Fragaria chiloensis - beach strawberry, Fragaria vesca - tall strawberry, Fragaria virginiana - blue-leafed strawberry

Smaller than their domesticated store bought cousins, these little guys can be sweeter and tastier.

The Plant:

A creeping spreading ground cover with trailing stems do not grow tall but spread wide. The stems are bright red and splay out in every direction on a healthy plant. Leaves are green trifoliate with serrated edges. White flowers form into strawberries in summertime. Different varieties prefer varying climates, but these hardy plants can be found throughout the PNW. From beaches to high mountain rocky soils.

The Berry:

Smaller than their domesticated cousins but often more flavorful, soft, and sweet. Pick individually and eat fresh, the deeper the color the riper the berry.

Typical Uses:

Use wherever you would typically use strawberries.

Fresh green leaves are also edible or for use in teas

Thimbleberry (Redcaps)

Rubus parviflorus

Resembling a raspberry thimbleberries are every bit as delicious, though like raspberry it is not a true berry but an aggregate fruit.

The Plant:

Unlike other members of this genus the thimbleberry shrub does not grow spines. It grows up to 8 feet tall (about 3 m), with serrated maple like leaves. Large white flowers develop into the “berries” or aggregate whorls of fruit drupelets. The shrub has long been cultivated by native people, found along road sides, in disturbed ground, along burn scars.

The “berries”:

Similar in shape and flavor to raspberries, they can be harvested one by one. The berries are more delicate than their relatives thus this delicious berry has never been right for commercial production.

Typical Uses:

New green shoots of the thimbleberry can be eaten

Leaves can be harvested and made into teas

The leaves were traditionally crushed and used in poultices and salves

The berries are great and should be used fresh in jams, jellies, toppings, ice cream

New green shoots of the thimbleberry can be eaten


Deur, Douglas. Pacific Northwest Foraging. Portland, Timber Press, 2014

Nyerges, Christopher. Foraging Oregon. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016

A lot of help from Wikipedia

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