I made fireweed preserves with the vast amount of plants in front and around my cabin this summer. The process is quite easy, and can sustain your jam needs through the summer, depending on how much you wildcraft. 😉
I personally only take what I need. I believe in the ethics of wildcrafting, in which you harvest one or two discovered patches and leave the rest to others to discover and forage.
You simply boil the flowers for about 2 hours, strain them and let it sit for about 5 hours once you mix in the sugar, and pectin if you like. I opt out on the pectin and add a little rhubarb to thicken it up.
I find this recipe very tasty and highly recommend it.
What an abundant plant this summer! I foraged a lot of cranberries this summer, and struggled a bit with how to eat them.
(They are quite bitter)
I ended up making a cranberry jam/sauce mixed with sugar, onion, and pepper. Strange combination that is actually very tasty on almost anything!
Wild cranberries can be hard to really find a good, and enjoyable use for, but when mixed with enough ingredients can be good.
Need less to say, cranberries are also very accessible in this area and we should become accustomed to eating the native plants, since it is the most sustainable way of eating.
Another berry I was wondering about is Sorbus (Mountain ash) and Aronia (chokeberries). It is very typical berry in Russia. Red Sorbus is used a lot for crafts – kids will make necklaces out of it. Aronia is used in jams, preserves and compote.
Sorbus and Aronia
In addition to the science, there are also cultural aspects to berries that are worth noting. Some berry folklore for you, compiled by Cornell University: Berry Folklore
I was curious to know if there were any invasive species that also served as popular berry harvesting crops, and found an article about the beloved scourge of Himalayan blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) in Seattle. These thorny shrubs readily colonize disturbed soils. The problem is so bad, a Rent-a-Ruminant business was spawned to sustainably address the issue. They owner specializes in urban areas and runs a goat herd 120 strong.
All that being said, the berry holds a special place with foragers throughout the city. I’m sure it’s easy to forget how destructive they are when your house smells like fruit pie. Bittman, M. and D. Gardner. 2008. Deliciously invasive: Himalayan blackberries in the Pacific Northwest. Available online: Invasive Berries
At least two wineries that I know of make wine using Alaska berries. Bear Creek Winery in Homer (Bear Creek Winery) makes wine with many different grapes and even rhubarb. They do tastings at the winery and the wines are available in Fairbanks.
I haven’t tried any of Alaska Berries wines (Alaska Berries) but they advertise 100% Alaska berry wines!