Monthly Archives: October 2015

Blueberry in sign language

The other class I am taking is an American Sign Language class, so I thought it would be fun to show a video of the sign for “blueberry.” Enjoy.

Signing Blueberry

Juneberries (saskatoons)

Here is an interesting link to June berry/ service berry growing. It has a long video that is pretty interesting too.


High Tunnel Raspberry and Blackberry Production

High Tunnel Raspberries and Blackberries Manual, from Penn State Extension: High Tunnels

Fermented fruits and wildlife

This article from National Geographic examines anecdotal reports of birds getting drunk on fermented berries. Links to climate change are suggested. If you come across a bird that appears drunk, but is not otherwise injured, put it in a cardboard box that has airholes and give the bird a few hours to sober up before releasing it. Birds

Haskap Advice from Dr. Bors

This is a presentation that was done by Dr. Bob Bors from the University of Saskachewan.  Looks like it was an international presentation for crop week.  Lots of good information.  Goes alongside the earlier link in haskap category done by Bors.  Presentation link.

River Crab Apple, Malus fusca, Pyrus rivularis

I was intrigued after reading the annual reports from the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations in the early 1900s about the referenced native wild Alaska crabapple, Pyrus rivularis (Malus fusca). Although it is not a berry in the strict sense of the word, it is a fruiting plant native to Alaska, which I think warrants mention on this blog. I had not heard of this plant previously so I did some searching on the internet. The accepted name of the river crab apple (or Oregon crab apple) now appears to be Malus fusca.

According to Silva of North America, this tree grows south of the Aleutian Islands and along the coast of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. The small fruits are yellow to red in color and were historically used by native Americans.

A more elegant description of the tree is in North American Sylva, where the fruit is described as “small and purple, scarcely the size of a cherry, of an agreeable flavor.”

According to Food Plants of the North American Indians, the fruits were “eaten raw or boiled, or put away in oil for winter use.”

I wonder how the plant is currently being used in Alaska after a seemingly bright future as a potentially hybrid parent line or rootstock?

Learn more about the plant in the USDA PLANTS database

Halloween “blood”

Halloween berry recipe The internet is full of recipes for edible fake blood for Halloween.  Here is an example.  Fake blood  Most involve some type of thickener like corn starch, a dye – like berry juice, berry jam, or food coloring.  Some use blackberries and some use strawberries.  It does seem like most red berries might not be dark enough on their own.  A mix with a small amount of blueberry juice, may just work.  The end result can be used as blood for costumes and decorations for cake.

Haskap antioxidants

A great paper published in June of this year on the anti-inflammatory potential of Lonicera caerulea (haskap).  It specifically mentions the Borealis cultivar, as having the highest polyphenolis content. I will definitely be attempting to grow some on my property in the near future! Haskap antioxidants

Migrant berry pickers in Scandinavia

This article from NPR brought up several interesting issues surrounding berry harvest, including migrant workers, domestication of wild plants, and changes in worldwide demand for healthy fruits.

It seems that wild berries in Alaska are harvested more for subsistence than commercial ventures, but that isn’t quite so in scandinavian countries. Apparently the demand for wild berry products, both fresh and processed, is fueling more harvest and the labor is being filled with many migrant workers.

What are factors that have made berry products such an important commercial industry in Scandinavia? I would think that investment in infrastructure would be a major factor, supported by nearby markets that have a high demand for healthy wild berries. Everyman’s Right likely plays a role too.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is one species that is highly sought after in scandinavian countries, and increasingly asian countries, with seemingly good reason. It is high in antioxidants, with an ORAC score of 706 (Brunswick Laboratories) for dried fruit. For comparison, our native blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) has a score of 420. A higher score denotes higher potential antioxidant activity.

Crowberries in smoothies?

Crowberry Each year I while picking berries I come across tons of crowberries.  I’ve never picked more than a handful purposefully.  Sometimes they get mixed in with my blueberries.  I’ve often thought about coming back and picking them at a later time.  It looks like there would be lots of good reasons to go back.  This website based in Finland has an informative section on crowberries.  Crowberries They contain some of the same compounds as cranberries that people take for urinary tract health and heart disease.   While I don’t think I’d want to use crowberries in jams or pies on their own, their health benefits and abundance seemingly everywhere in Alaska may make them a useful addition to breakfast smoothies and yogurt.

Removing Stems from Berries

I really liked the way of getting red currants of the stems in this week’s video.  De-stemming Red Currants.  That’s definitely one of the things I don’t like to do when dealing with red currants. I’m wondering is there any other tricks for other berries that I don’t know about? For cleaning gooseberries?

Currant harvester

Talk about Currant Harvester: My mouth was watering throughout the currant section so I thought I’d investigate the possibility of a currant harvester.  This one I found looks A LOT like it was designed as an Alaskan Machine.:)  Currant Harvester

Black Currant Liqueur

How to make your own Creme de Cassis, Black Currant Liqueur.  First off, I love the name of this blog (Use Real Butter), and this is a great step-by-step way to make a fruit liqueur with berries and vodka.  (And off topic, check out how to make your own Vanilla Extract.)  Currant Liqueur

Zante “currants”

While watching Greg Quinn’s TED talk on black currants, I was slightly unnerved to find out that I was one of those suckers who thought Zante Currants were indeed currants. Zante currants look like raisins, taste like raisins, and come in a box with this warning about the occasional GRAPE STEM mixed up inside. I still never saw it coming. Surely I’ve read every food label in my cabinet except for this one…

The blow to my pride does not make the Zante Currant taste any less delicious in my oatmeal. It may be a raisin, but it’s a quality raisin. In fact, the “Black Corinth” has been with us for a long time: Pliny the Elder made mention of this “tiny Greek grape” in 75 A.D., and in 1901 the USDA’s David Fairchild was responsible for the first introduction in the U.S.

However, the future of the California Zante Currant (and really, the future of all U.S. raisins) may be in jeopardy. Greece’s “above-average yield” in 2014 flooded the export market and kept prices for California exports from rising. A rise in price is necessary to justify the expense for the farmers. Couple that with a “lack of labor” and historic drought conditions and you have many farms ripping out their vines and replacing at least a portion of their land with more lucrative nut crops.

References:  Fitchette, T. 2015. RBA achieves $1,900 for 2014 Zante Currant raisin crop. Available online:, Accessed 18 October 2105.  Northcutt, G. 2015. Following bloom, water for irrigation remains a big concern for raisin grape growers. Available online: Accessed 18 October 2015.  University of California Integrated Viticulture. Zante Currant. Available online: Accessed 18 October 2015.

Strange and odd fruits

This web site features the jostaberry among many other strange fruit hybrids and short descriptions. Definitely worth a checking out if only to add fuel to an already growing fascination with plant breeding.  Odd hybrid fruits

Honeyberry Source

This website is for Honeyberry USA, which is a berry farm that sells cultivated berry bushes. They are located in Minnesota, so most of their berry bushes are cold-hardy. They mostly sell honeyberry bushes, but also have gooseberries, currants, and juneberries. Another item they sell is a mechanical pollinator for berry bushes. Honeyberry Source


Elderberry – Sambucus species. The newest additions to our edible landscape process are some plants of the Sambucus species. This summer, I traded a friend for a native elderberry plant. I also purchased two different cultivars of Sambucus nigra Samdal and Samyl, which have the traditional purple/black berries. A third variety of Sambucus canadensis was purchased at the Alaska Botanical Garden this summer. To round out my collection, I picked up two plants of the cultivar “Black Lace”, which is also a cultivar of Sambucus nigra. I purchased these two at a summer clearance sale at a local box store. After getting them home, I discovered they are a zone 4 or better plant and keep them in large pots which are moved into the a protected area for the winter. With the exception of the Black Lace cultivars, the others will be planted in the south and west perimeter of my dome greenhouse. Three of the Sambucus nigra were planted the summer of 2014 and grew very well this summer. The Sambucus canadensis plant will stay in the protection of the greenhouse this winter as it didn’t have a lot of vigorous growth this summer. This spring, it will go out with the other three. The Black Lace will remain in pots to be placed outside the greenhouse door to entice pollinators to visit. I haven’t decided where to place the native plant, but may try and gather a few more plants to add to the perimeter of our property. D.B.

Mummy berry!

Just a little Halloween humor.  Mummy berry!  Blueberry Mummyberry

A summer berry picking job!

Last summer one of those kids in Finland who didn’t have a summer job ended up in the news. This 14-year old boy got a hint from his mother that picking berries could be a great way to earn money during the summer. As picking berries is everyman’s right in Finland, the boy looked for good wild berry spots, and picked 350 litres of blueberries in four weeks! He made 1500 euros (1700 USD) by selling those blueberries, many of those buyers were his school teachers.

If no one offers you a job, create it yourself!

Swedish Lingonberries

I found this great website on lingonberries, and especially the importance of lingonberries in Swedish culture. I found it interesting that you can buy frozen lingonberries all year round in Sweden. Swedish Lingonberries