Monthly Archives: September 2015

Blueberry Wine!

I have been making wine for a few years now, mostly focusing on birch flavored ones, but blueberry wine has always stuck out as an obvious option that should be explored. This site has what looks like an excellent recipe for the first batch.

A good year for Blueberries in Interior Alaska (if you had the right elements at your spot)

This year was phenomenally prolific for me in my quest for blueberries. Early and abundant, then continued production all the way through mid-August. This was not the report that I heard from everyone I know who seeks the Interior blueberry.  Hit and miss, no show, or picked out was what I heard more than anything else. We travel far and wide to find the best spots and have a few different areas scoped out for different types of seasons. When spot x is showing nothing, spot y will usually be flush and so on. This proved to be right on the money again this year and while a few spots were low yielding, most of our others were fantastic. The combination of factors that leads to good berry yields has always fascinated me and continues today.  The Peninsula Clarion ran a story this year pointing out the difference between regions and spots on berry harvest.

Fruit Fermentation?

I’m really into fermenting everything from veggies to meat, so I thought others might be interested in two books by Sandor Ellix Katz.

The first is Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (ISBN: 978-1931498234,  I can’t wait to try the recipe for fruit kimchi and I have a recipe for cranberries and honey that I want to do for the holidays. I love how I can use fermentation to preserve my berry harvest and other foods.

The second is The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World (ISBN: 978-1603582865,


A new favorite berry plant of mine is the seaberry, Hippophae rhamnoides also called sea-buckthorn. The seed catalog where I purchased mine from, One Green World, enticed me with tidbits like “Grow your own orange juice” and “improves the soil”. I purchased three plants from them three years ago. I purchased two female and one male plant because they are dioecious. Although I didn’t see any flowers on the two female plants early on this spring/summer, I was surprised to find berries mid-August. One drawback with this plant is the huge thorns which makes harvesting difficult. Further research will be conducted in locating less hazardous harvesting methods. I discovered another internet site with some interesting information which shares growing information and health benefits, The Sea Buckthorn Insider. I’m amazed at the versatility of this plant.


One Green World. 2014. Seaberry. Available online: . Accessed 25 September 2015.

The Sea Buckthorn Insider. 2014. Sea-buckthorn trees. . Accessed 25 September 2015.


We are slowly incorporating as many types of edible plants into our yard as we can. One of our newest editions is our three seaberry bushes. We purchased two female plants and one male plant because this species is dioecious. Seaberries are sometimes called Sea-buckthorn with the botanical name of Hippophae rhamnoides. I was intrigued after reading in a One Green World seed catalog enticing tidbits such as “very high in vitamin C” and “extremely hardy.” This is the second year for ours in the ground and were pleasantly surprised to find berries on them in August. A little bit of internet research led me to this interesting site with a lot of information on the Sea-buckthorn: A few things mentioned on this side are the seeming multitude of health benefits as well as growing and harvesting techniques. All in all, I think these three plants are an interesting addition to our Alaskan micro-habitat.


One Green World. 2014. Seaberry. Accessed online 25 September 2015.

Sea-Buckthorn Insider. 2014. Sea-Buckthorn trees. Accessed online 25 September 2015.

Harvesting Red Currants

Here’s a video where red currants are being collected by “pamputus”, hit by a stick, then cleaned. Fast picking, fast cleaning. I wonder is all that hitting good for the plant..?

The quality of the video is poor, but you’ll see the point!

Red Currant Harvesting


If you’re going to go out picking from a wild stand, make sure you can tell the difference between edible and poisonous berries. Of particular concern in the Interior would be the baneberry. Here are a couple links with photos: Baneberry

Some Good Alaska Sites

Facebook is a great place to connect with other Alaska berry hunters/foragers. Here are three Alaskan groups with lots of information and members to share knowledge with:

Alaska berry pickers: Alaska Berry Pickers

Alaska edible and medicinal plants: Alaska Edibles and Medicinals

Alaska wildcrafting and foraging: http://Alaska Wildcrafting and Foraging


Strawberry- end of season care

t’s close to the time of year when strawberry plants need to be tucked in for the winter.  This website offers detailed advice on the whens, hows, and whys of mulching strawberries. Wintering Strawberries.  There are links to more useful strawberry information including overwintering strawberries in containers.

Baneberry vs. Highbush Cranberry

High bush cranberries and baneberries Anyone who as thumbed through a book or perused a website about Alaska berries knows about baneberries.  They are highly poisonous and to be avoided at all costs.  I figured that was simple enough to do.  Baneberries seemed distinctive from other berries.  They could easily be spotted and distinguished on their own in the woods.  I thought they shouldn’t be difficult to avoid.  Recently I was picking high bush cranberries and learned how easy it could be to mistakenly add some baneberries to your highbush cranberry harvest.  The baneberry plants were growing alongside the high bush cranberries and the branches intertwined.  Both berries have black dots in the center of the red.  The high bush cranberries are translucent while the baneberries are opaque, but the distinction is small.  Both berries were soft at the time I was picking.   The leaves of the plants are shaped differently, but have a lot of similarities and are difficult to distinguish from one another when you are in the bushes and everything around you is green.   It seemed easy enough that when reaching for a handful of cranberries, one might pick one or two of the baneberries as well.   Being that small amounts can do lots of damage, it was alarming.  Luckily we were paying close enough attention and avoided any trouble.  The highbush cranberry bushes were very tall in that area and the baneberry plants were all below the waste.  I passed over all the high bush cranberries that were growing low and discarded any somewhat questionable berries.  I rechecked when cleaning the highbush cranberries at home.  When juicing the berries for jelly, I didn’t come across any different looking seeds. has an entry that warns about this possible confusion    Alaska poisonous plants

Highbush Cranberry ketchup

One type of berry I picked a lot of this summer were highbush cranberries. I bought a food mill so that I could easily remove the flat seeds and use the pulp. They are still in my freezer, but one of my friends made a batch of this highbush cranberry ketchup. It ended up being more like sweet and sour sauce. Here is the recipe:

Highbush cranberry

Medicinal Plants

Although not strictly a “berry book”, Medicinal Flora of the Alaska Natives by Ann Garibaldi is an excellent resource to learn about traditional uses of local plants. While we all may know of many ways to utilize the fruits themselves, this book gives information about how other parts of the plant are used as well. For example, the Dena’ina people prepared a tea of crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) leaves for stomach ailments, and while we often think of pumpkin berries (Geocaulon lividum) as inedible the leaves have been used by the Dena’ina people as a poultice.

The book is out of print, but is available for free online as a PDF from the Alaska Natural Heritage Program.

Good Books about Berries

Here are a few of my favorite books which include lots of great information on berries in Alaska. Anyone interested in collecting berries in Alaska should add these books to their personal library.

This book identifies most of the edible, non-edible and poisonous plants in Alaska. The big plus with this books are all the recipes provided.

Editors of ALASKA® magazine. 1984. Alaska wild berry guide and cookbook. Alaska Northwest Publishing Company. Alaska.

I’m still reading and exploring this book. Lots of information on medicinal uses and how to harvest and prepare your goodies.

Gray, B. 2011. The boreal herbal. Wild food and Medicine plants of the North. Aroma Borealis Press. Yukon.

This was one of my first Alaskan plant reference books. It was written by one of the pioneers of Alaskan edibles and should be in everyone’s library.

Heller, C.A. 1993. Wild edible and poisonous plants of Alaska. University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska.

Verna has explored many areas of Alaska documenting and with her husband, Frank, photographing much of it as well. Her book fits well into a hip pocket and should accompany anyone foraging for Alaskan berries.

Pratt, V.E. 2001/ Alaska’s wild berries and berry-like fruit. Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd, Hong Kong.

This book is a brief compilation of Janice’s larger book and is also a great one to take out while harvesting.

Schofield, J. J. 1999. Alaska’s wild plants. A guide to Alaska’s edible harvest. Alaska Northwest Books. Oregon.

This is a must have book. Janice has thoroughly explored each plant within the book’s covers. She provides great anecdotal information which brings to life each and every plant.

Schofield, J.J. 2014. Discovering wild plants. Alaska, Western Canada, the Northwest. Eaton, New Zealand.

Alaska Berries

Alaska Berries is a family farm and winery located on the Kenai Peninsula.The Olsen family operates the farm and winery; they are the only certified Alaska Grown winery in the state, utilizing numerous varieties of cultivated berries grown on their farm. Haskaps, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, saskatoons, gooseberries, and currants can all be found growing at the farm and are then processed on-site into wines, jams, and syrups.

Visit their website to learn more or read this article from the Redoubt Reporter

And if you are in Kenai-Soldotna, stop by their tasting room to sample their delicious product!Alaska BerriesRedoubt Reporter

Juniper Berries

Junipers and another great Blog:

I have ornamental junipers (J. horizontalis mostly–varieties like Blue Rug) all over the steep parts of my property, and I just noticed that they are finally old enough to produce fruit.  According to this blogsite, juniper berries can take more than one year to mature.

Juniper Berries

Alaska Grown Source Book

The Alaska Grown Source Book is a place to look for commercial berry growers. It has a produce availability chart that tells you when raspberries and strawberries are available in the state. It also lists all the different farms across Alaska including u-pick locations if there are any in your area. Here is a link from DRN where you go to download the latest guide: Alaska Grown Sourcebook

Everyman’s Right

After reading an NPR article on Nordic berry harvests for growing East Asian markets, what immediately stuck out for me was the concept Everyman’s right. Bichell’s article makes reference to this “legal concept in Nordic countries in which the right to pick berries, flowers and mushrooms trumps private property.” These rights apply to residents and visitors alike. As long as you are not disturbing a landowner or trespassing on their yard or “special use” areas (cultivated fields), you may commercially forage and even camp for a night. Such a concept is entirely foreign to me. I come from a litigious land where defying property rights, especially when you’re profiting off them, may come with severe and enforceable legal consequences. Some questions I have include:
Is Everyman’s right a generally accepted standard in Finland? Is growing population pressure (to include the seasonal labor force) an environmental issue? Would areas be improved by limiting access? Are private property violations, such as excessive camping and littering, rampant? Are grievances from property owners easily heard and investigated? Are consequences enforceable? How do property owners feel about commercial gain from land that they own? Are property owners encouraged to be better stewards of the land since others (with equal rights to the natural resources) are passing through and bearing witness to their activities?
Do any readers have personal experience with this type of land usage?

Berry Tray

Has anyone seen one of these? I got this from Norway. It is the greatest thing for cleaning berries I have ever found. I have tried to find them online, but with no success.IMG_1563

A City Orchard in Philadelphia

This is a Link about a project to plant berries and fruit trees in the city of  Philadelphia. Its nice to hear about city projects that are providing growing resources to the citizens.

Philadelphia orchard

All about the Bunchberry

When I started harvesting berries I kept coming across a little plant close to the ground that had a little “bunch” of berries at the top. I found out that these were bunchberries, and they grew on plant called a dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis). I was told that the berries were edible, but not particularly tasty. Since then I have learned a little more about this plant. Here are some interesting things about the bunchberry:

They are very high in pectin and often mixed into more tasty berries in order to help them set in jams and jellies. In fact you can find recipes for pectin derived from bunchberries available on the internet.

The leaves of the dwarf dogwood turn a beautiful red color in the fall and you can often see them on the mountains here in southcentral Alaska as large patches of red.

They are the ‘fastest’ plant when they open their petals to pollinate (22 feet per second!).

Here is a great source of information on the humble bunchberry: