Monthly Archives: November 2015

Anybody for a pi pie?

This certainly would be a fun way to serve berry pie! Pi Pie

Berry Cultivation In Norway

This is a short presentation from that shows some interesting berry research with cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) , crowberry (Empetrum nigrum),  and lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)  Berry Cultivation Norway

Watermelon berries

Watermelon berries (Streptopus amplexifolius) are delicious and juicy, with a mild flavor. The stalk of the plant can also be eaten and has a flavor similar to cucumber. Although it has been a traditional food in its native range, I am not aware that it has ever been commercially harvested. It may be due to its preference for shady, wetter areas, or possibly because it is difficult to grow from seed.

This plant is known to grow across the circumpolar north. In Alaska it is more abundant south of the Alaska range, but I have observed it at Manley Hot Springs and have heard that it survives transplant into Fairbanks gardens.

There is a publication from UAF Cooperative Extension Service that describes how to identify and utilize the plant. Learn more about how to propagate watermelon berries at this site.

Bog cranberry

Wandering through sphagnum bogs during the fall in Alaska you can often find bog cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos). Although the berries are typically not abundant, they are a tasty treat and wonderful addition to a berry mix. The berries are not commercially utilized in the US, but are a commodity in Russia.

Learn more about bog cranberries at this site from the USFS.

Sea buckthorn – it grows here!

Sea buckthorn is a plant that is being talked about more and more in Alaska. Native to northern latitudes of Europe and Asia, it would seem this plant would be well-suited to Alaska. Canadian researchers are already looking into developing sea buckthorn as a crop, as they have for saskatoon serviceberries and honeyberries.

Alaskans are making progress on this plant too! Papa M. is growing sea buckthorn in North Pole, AK. He has some older shrubs that are over 10 feet tall and produce gallons of gorgeous orange berries. Papa sells sexed seedlings (which is extremely important for dioecious species such as sea buckthorn) from productive lines every summer at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market or direct from his farm.

Learn more about how to grow the plants here:

Sea buckthorn Special Crops Factsheet

Sea buckthorn Production Guide

Juniper for Gin

Juniper “berries” are one of the main botanicals that give gin its distinctive flavor. The berries of juniper are actually cones that have modified scales giving it a smooth, berry-like appearance. There are many types of juniper, but common juniper (Juniperus communis) is the species most often used for flavoring gin. Have you ever wondered how your favorite gin companies harvest juniper? According to this site, the best juniper is still harvested from wild trees. There is a short video in the middle of the page that shows harvesters in action.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup Today I was lucky enough to take a workshop at the Eagle River Nature Center presented by Chief Naturalist Ute Olsson.  She covered a lot of ground.  The ERNC calendar is here with a brief description of the workshop: Workshop announcement.  In the workshop we made elderberry syrup.   Elderberries are highly regarding for their nutraceutical properties.  The workshop presented a recipe found on Wellness Mamas website which can be found here: Elderberry Syrup.  The dried elderberries we used were actually quite tasty on their own and had a chocolate hint to them.

Highbush Cranberry Bark as medicine

Highbush cranberry bark Highbush cranberry has traditional uses beyond foods created from its berries.  The bark is also used for medicinal purposes.  The Alaska Native Knowledge Network has an entry from Eleanor Viereck’s book here Audrey Sunnyboy’s book Denyaavee, recommends using one teaspoon of dried bark or one tablespoon of fresh bark per one cup of boiling water to make a tea.   To harvest the bark, simply use a vegetable pealer and shave off some bark.   Viereck, E. 1987. Alaska’s wilderness medicines: Healthful plants of the far north. Alaska Northwest Books. Anchorage, AK. Sunnyboy, A. 2007. Denyaavee. Medicine plants of interior Alaska’s People.

Exploding Flowers of the Bunchberry – world’s fastest flower

Explosive Flowering of the Bunch Berry

NPR’s All Things Considered covers the discovery of the Bunch Berry as the worlds fastest flower. The audio recording on NPR’s website (link below) includes an interview with the student, Sarah Klionsky, who made the initial discovery and her Biology professor, Joan Edwards, who facilitated the subsequent research. The story drives home how important discoveries can still be made of what is often overlooked.   Exploding Bunchberries. More about the research that was done and how it was performed is available on Williams College website:  Student Research

Naming of the Juneberry. Or is it Saskatoon?

What’s in a name? Saskatoon vs. Juneberry

This article from Time magazine examines the significance placed on what the Saskatoon berry is called when it comes to introducing it to the US market. Canadians cry foul at the efforts to re-brand Saskatoons as Juneberries especially considering that the cultivars generating the excitement in the US were developed in Canada. With billions of dollars potentially at stake, the controversy will, however, likely continue. I agree with the Michigan grower quoted in the article. Saskatoon is a much sexier name than Juneberry and gets my vote.  What’s in a Name?

Origin of Haskaps

This article is a succinct history of the haskap from Japan, Russia and Canada with dates.  Seems as though Alaska had some a little earlier than what is published here.  Haskap

Honeyberry Buckle

Modified from King Arthur Flour Company. 2003. The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. WW Norton & Co, New York.

Recipe:  Honeyberry Buckle (modified from a blueberry buckle recipe, ’cause “honeyberry buckle” is fun to say)

Batter:  3/4 cup sugar, 4 tbsp. butter, 1 large egg, 1/2 cup milk, 2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and cardamom, 1 tsp. vanilla extract.  2 cups fresh honeyberries OR 2 cups frozen NOT thawed. (Add while still frozen, or the batter will turn an unpleasant pinky-purple color.)

Streusel:  1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp. lemon zest, 1/2 tsp. salt, 5 tbsp. softened butter.

For the batter:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter and sugar, then add egg and mix at medium speed for 1 minute.  Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture, then stir in the milk and vanilla.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients, then gently fold in honeyberries.  Spread the batter in a greased 9-inch square or 9-inch round pan.

For the streusel: In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon, and salt.  Add the butter and mix with a fork or your fingers to make medium-sized crumbs.  Spring the streusel evenly over the batter.

Bake:  45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in its pan on a rack.  Serve with coffee in the morning or with whipped cream or ice cream for dessert.

Berry Painting

Get creative! Here are actual instructions for berry painting haha! You can be 5 or 50 year old to do this while eating your berries if you ask me!  Berry Painting Berry Painting

Drying lingonberries

Apparently pretreating lingonberries before drying them cracks the skins and helps the drying process. I was putting them directly in the dehydrator and wondering why they were taking so long to dry. Then after several days they were almost powdery. I am going to try this method next year and see if it works better. In addition to the drying tips there are a number of good guidelines here for storing your lingonberry harvest. Planning on printing this out because lingonberries are my favorite!   Drying lingonberries

Weeds and Berry Pollination

This week, I listened to a brief 2012 KYUK radio piece on the threat of invasive white sweetclover (Melilotis alba) to Y-K Delta berry patches. It was suggested that the weed, which at publishing had yet to be noticed off the road system, had the potential to invade wild blueberry and cranberry stands in the Interior and lure pollinators away. If blueberries and cranberries received less pollinator visitation or the incorrect pollen, fruit set could be affected.

Research conducted by UAF on 20 test plots near the Steese, Elliot and Dalton Highways found that flowering sweetclover actually encouraged pollinator visitation to berries. Cranberries and blueberries saw at least 3 times the pollinator activity they normally would and cranberries actually had improved fruit set when flowering sweetclover was present. However, researchers couldn’t quite link the results solely to the sweetclover.

Another study was done in a more controlled setting (sweetclover was introduced to test plots around UAF):

“During a rainy June in the first year, conditions seemed to draw pollinators away from native berry plants that were a moderate distance away. During a sunny June in 2012, conditions were good enough that all the plants seemed to benefit.”

More research is necessary, but it was suggested that certain geographic areas might be more susceptible to sweetclover competition (especially those where the sweetclover and berries have highly overlapping flowering periods). Competition for space, however, might be the real issue for native berries:

“Mulder said white sweetclover towers over berry plants and adds nitrogen to the soil, which are factors that could cause it to slowly crowd native plants out of their turf.”

Dried Lingonberries

I found this on the internet while looking for information about dried lingonberries. I was interested because I have tried to dry lingonberries but they came out very crunchy and powdery (which I know after watching the screencast is normal without added oil and sugar to make them chewy). I found this Finnish product and it came with some information about lingonberries and a short video on picking lingonberries.  Dried Lingonberries

Berry Fermentation

Fermented Berries The only way I’ve ever fermented berries was for wine.  It is possible to ferment them in a way that does not produce the alcohol content of wine and creates a highly nutritious food item.  The Nourished Kitchen has an article on fermenting berries: Fermented berries Cultures for Health sells starter cultures and if you sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of their website, they will send you a link to some really informative e-books.  Their free e-book on lactofermentation covers fruits and berries:


Salmon berries anyone?  Salmonberries