Category Archives: Berry Harvesting

Picking and product development of crowberry (Empetrum hermaphroditum Hagerup and E. nigrum L)

 Gunnlaug Røthe(1), Terje Vasskog(2), Inger Martinussen(1)1and Kåre Rapp(1)  (1) Norwegian Crop Research Institute, Holt Research Centre, Box 6232, N-9292 Tromsø, (2) Norway2Institute of Pharmacy, University of Tromsø, N-9000 Tromsø, Norway

I like this study because it addresses antioxidant activities of crowberries, but also a question all berry pickers have– do I hand harvest or use one of those berry pickers? The researchers harvested productive and not-so-productive plots in open and forested areas in northern Norway. They harvested berries for 6 years which is pretty amazing in this era of publish-as-soon-as-you-have-a-smidgen-of-data even after one season. Good scientists know that it takes at least 3 years of data to get any reliable data on field plots.  The string pickers they mention are the small plastic harvesters with metal times that are so common in berry picking areas in Alaska.

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They found that hand harvesting beat out berry pickers in nearly every year. The researchers, however, did not report on how long it took to harvest these plots with the two methods. For commercial harvest, that might be important. However, look at the yields in each year. 1995 was an extremely good year, but then yields plummeted in 1997, a phenomenon that is common to wild harvested berries. A rollercoaster of yields can be expected.

Another possible reason not to use pickers is uneven ripening. At any one time, there are overripe, full ripe and unripe berries on the plants. The authors showed that the highest levels of antioxidants occurred at full ripe. On either side of that, the levels of antioxidants decreased significantly. For instance levels of phenols in fruit were 364 mg/100 g unripe, 423 mg/100g ripe and 272.3 mg.100 g overripe. No doubt,  the berry pickers will ensure greater numbers of berries in the unripe and overripe categories.

 The authors also found that the amounts of antioxidants are dramatically reduced during the processing -from raw material to product (juice, jelly, wine). The flavonoids quercetin, for instance showed 268.4 and 798.0 ug/g in unprocessed berries and skins, respectively. Levels in processed products ranged from 1.7  to 25.6 ug/g, a huge drop.

 

 

 

 

Using traditional ecological knowledge to understand and adapt to climate and biodiversity change on the Pacific Coast of North America

2019. Victoria Rawn Wyllie de Echeverria , Thomas F. Thornton  Ambio https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-019-01218-6

2019. Wyllie de Echeverria, Thornton

The authors tackle one of the most complex issues in climate change science and ecology – how to include a human element in identifying change including traditional knowledge of plants and animals. How can human experiences, languages and traditions be used to verify change, and how can the importance of these traditions be included in ecological studies of climate change.  One main goal, of course,  is to identify ways indigenous people can maintain customary uses of their region, in this case, coastal areas in Southeast Alaska, while adapting to broader ecological changes that occur in an ecosystem.  Participants in a survey noted weather pattern shifts in their lifetime such as more snow, more rainfall, as well as shifts in the seasons. The researchers also examined language patterns to learn about traditional words used for weather or activities related to weather such as “foods being dried in the sun”. They indicated that changes in plant use in the region was most likely because of land use changes (logging, land development) rather than specific climate change.

One case study examined changes to salmonberry and blueberry species that are considered keystone species because they are used heavily by locals and have a long tradition of use. The authors tried to make connections between people’s recollections, historical knowledge and current practices compared to ecological knowledge of berry picking sites, yields, berry quality and more. I think back to some of the experiments in ecology I have been involved with over the years. They are so complex, it is difficult to isolate a single or even a handful of biological causes for a particular observation. For instance, there are so many reasons why berries might not appear in a season (frost during spring, drought, too much rain, poor soil nutrition, predation, and on and on. Recollections might be due to any or a combination of these factors. Attributing them to climate change is tricky and challenging. Human knowledge might just add to the evidence, but as climate scientists will agree, it takes many, many years and a lot of data points to begin to draw conclusions.

 

Documenting Change in Nunavut

Here is a thesis that explores climate change through berries near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada. The program is part citizen science as well as documenting the ethnobotany of the region. It includes great summaries of the most important berries and even some recipes!

ubc_2017_may_desrosiers_sarah

Wild berries along the Tanana

From one of the last screencasts in the Wild and Cultivated Berries class, (NRM 154), it was mentioned that certain berries could be found along the Yukon and Tanana rivers. I am from a village along the Yukon River and have to travel along the Tanana River in order to get home by boat. I had never even thought about looking for any other berry besides blueberries along the river. Now that I know what all of these berries look like and where they are likely to grow I can definitely be on the lookout next time I travel home 🙂  LF Fairbanks

The Zen of Berry Picking!

Salmonberry picking. The link above takes you to a cute short story about salmonberry picking in Alaska. It is called “The Zen of Berry Picking” by Lisa Kroner. It is a funny short story that truely does express how important berries are to people who pick everywhere and live off the land. “The thing about picking wild berries is that although they are everywhere, they are not always easy to get to-” (The Zen of Berry Picking, Kroner, p. 9). Berry picking is not always easy and it can be a real chore depending on the area you live in. I also think thats what makes it fun though, and feeling the appreciation when you come home with a bucket full of berries. Kroner expresses her thankfulness in this short story of her learning about salmonberries.

Berries in Alaska

This article in the ADN is about the antioxidant content of berries, good picking locations in Alaska and some of the things you can do with them once you find them. One recipe i personally would like to try is the Nagoonberry Syrup! Burke, Jill. 2012. Alaska wild berries: Tips on how to find and prepare them. Accessed online: Berries  Accessed on 12 Oct 2016.

Nagoonberry Harvest Glacier Bay

Berry picking is a large part of most Alaskan cultures and heritages. This is a video produced in cooperation with Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the Hoonah Indian Association. In this ten minute video there are 21 lucky berry pickers that were invited to the Glacier Bay National Park to pick Nagoon berries. In this video you get to see and hear introductions of those invited berry picking including some information on the individuals cultural background and their thoughts and feelings on being able to go berry nagoon berry picking. I like this video because you get a since of the feeling of pride and happiness that berry picking can bring not only an individual but also a community. I really liked that many of these pickers were first time nagoon berry pickers. What a great program the National Park Service has created by helping Alaskan cultures get back to some of their roots. LH Fairbanks

Grant, K. 2011. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Berry Pickers 2011. Available online: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=C3F041A5-1DD8-B71C-0774CC1129C90E5A . Accessed: 10 Oct. 2016.

Alaska Wild Berry Resources

Alaskan Wild Berry Resources and Human Health Under the Cloud of Climate Change
Wild berries are an integral part of Alaskan diet. They are a rich source in polyphenolic metabolites that can aid metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Here, a study of five common Alaskan wild berries are screened for bioactivity -the effect on participants. And the effect of different seasons/fluctuations on berry abundance and quality is provided.

Selected extracts reduced glucose levels and other insight allows for the monitoring of these berries as the climate changes throughout the region.
Flint, Courtney. Gonzalez De Mejia, Elvira. Kellogg, Joshua. Kuhn, Peter. Lila, Mary Ann. Raskin, Ilya. Ribnicky, David. Wang, Jinzhi. 2010. “Alaskan Wild Berry Resources and Human Health Under the Cloud of Climate Change.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 58(7): 3884-3900.

Berries in Alaska

I saw a post/comment on this paper on the Hort Alaska Berry Blog. Most Alaskans surveyed (from 73 communities) thought that berry supplies were more variable and had declined in recent years. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case, but I also wonder if our memories would mislead us to accurately remember past berry years. I guess the number of containers you pick from year to year would be a good indicator. If berry supplies are more variable and declining, that would be a good case for managing wild stands to some degree or cultivating berries. It’s also interesting to see how your location influences which berries you pick. Apparently, I am solidly an Interior berry picker that finds blueberries to be the most important berry. But, that probably means there is less competition for other berries such as cloudberries, nagoonberries, and cranberries. It is pretty cut throat at the blueberry patches here in Interior Alaska.
Hupp, J., Brubaker, M., Wilkinson, K., & Williamson, J. 2015.  How are your berries? Perspectives of Alaska’s environmental managers on trends in wild berry abundance. Available online: Berries. Accessed on 11 Oct, 2016.

Wile Berries in Alaska and their uses

“How are your berries? Perspectives of Alaska’s environmental managers on trends in wild berry abundance” is an article that I found that has a lot of information on wild berries in Alaska, perfect! The article is about a study done on berries, which berries people are eating and the abundance of berries and how it has been changing through the years. The researchers received information back from 73 communities in Alaska. It was so interesting to see which regions favored which berries the most! In the interior their research says that the lowbush blueberry is the most popular, which is my favorite. I’ll attach the link below if anyone wants to see the information on wild berries in Alaska!

Hupp, J., Brubaker, M., Wilkinson, K., & Williamson, J. 2015.  How are your berries? Perspectives of Alaska’s environmental managers on trends in wild berry abundance. Available online: Berries. Accessed on 5 Oct, 2016.

Preserving my berry treasure

Wild berry patches are an ever changing resource. Berries rely on a certain set of requirements; if any or all of those change, the berries can disappear and one year you may return to find your once lush patch gone for good. This at least has been my experience in a few of the wild berry patches that I have relied upon over the years. The past year I and some friends were very blessed to fine a lovely patch of Lingonberries in an area we had never searched. The reason we had never found this particular spot was because the berries used to be more prolific nearer our homes and my first rule of berry picking is; if a patch is near pick there. Why spend precious moments that could be spent picking berries wandering thither and yon over rough terrain looking for berries, unless you have to. Well we had to and much to our delight our search was rewarded. The area was not terribly far and had a nice hunting trail already established. We found many large clusters of berries near the trail and my friends decided to stay in this area to pick.
I have always been a wanderer; I usually have a gun with me in case I find something furry and large feeling territorial about the forest. True to my nature I walked some good ways beyond the trail; stopping every now and again to pick some berries and eat some berries. The going was rough with lots of fallen timbers around, but not impassible so I continued on. Finally, my efforts were rewarded. The patch that I found was in fact a series of patches all linked together in a large piece of woodland. The forest was a mix of perhaps 50/50 small spruce, medium sized aspens and a few large birch here and there. The forest floor was covered with lingonberry bushes, crowberry, and a few bearberry bushes all growing happily in the dappled pools of sunlight coming through the leafy canopy. The lingonberries were by far the most prolific; the plants were large and spread out under fallen logs and around old stumps. The area was edged by a few clearings and a long low trench running through much of the patch, perhaps from an old creek bed. The berries grew in thick clusters on the edges of this trench and along its lowest part. As I walked deeper into the forest I found fewer healthy patches; the trees were too thick and ground cover consisted mostly of mosses and lichens. In the more open spaces the berries were beautiful, large, and juicy, tart but also sweet; dark red on the outside and very white inside. Perfect specimens, and it did not take me long to fill my gallon.
This lovely patch has remained in my mind and seems a perfect candidate for wild stand management. I love the idea of having a place that I could care for if even just a little and perhaps improve the patch so that every year me and my friends can return to find it producing in abundance. The berries are already growing so well that I would not need to do much I think. Here are just a few ideas I have to improve the patch and perhaps next spring and summer I can implement some of them. First the spot is not easy to find and the going is pretty rough; I have found another way to get into the beginning of the patch from a different direction. This approach is much more open and I will mark it for further use. I know that lingonberries like sunny spots to ripen in but don’t handle hot weather very well; they need areas that also can shelter them during the cold winter months (garden.org). They prefer acidic soils which is fine, because where I live the soil throughout the whole area is very acidic; I struggle with acidic soils in my vegetable garden and it has been cultivated every year for about 30 years and is still acidic. The spot where the berries are growing must be acidic and the nutrients must be at a good ratio because the berries are very healthy looking. Cross pollination must also be taking place because the berries, throughout the patch, are all very large compared to what I am used to seeing from other patches. The shade does help to keep the moss around the berries moist; this not only helps the berries grow but also provides pollinators another reason to visit the patch. To improve the sunlight into the patch I will have to be very careful how many trees and how much brush I remove to prevent the patch from drying out; this would have a detrimental effect on the overall microsystem surrounding the berries.
I will need to chart when the berries bloom, what pollinators visit and how often. At this point the lingonberries far outgrow any other weeds in the area so I don’t think that I will add any fertilizer as this may encourage weeds to grow. The berry plants look very big to me and any more fertilizer might encourage more vegetative growth that they clearly don’t need (mofa.org). I will take my brush cutter into the stand next spring and remove a lot of the under growth such as small spruce trees, broken off limbs, and remove much of the Labrador tea stands to let more sunlight get to the berries and remove competition. After finding out how many pollinators come to the spot I have some ideas to attract more. I am not sure if it would work but I would like to plant or transplant a few more wild flowering plants to the spot such as bluebells, bunch berry, and others from farther away spots. There are already other flowering shrubs such as bearberry and crowberry and I would not remove all the Labrador tea as it also has nice flower for part of the year. The spot is also full of grouse which I am sure are attracted to the many berries; thankfully there are plenty to go around and the birds are also a very nice resource for fresh meat should I need some this winter. I think the primary pollinators are bumblebees; the spot is full of old trees and fallen rotting logs which would provide good nesting sources for them.
Hopefully I will have time next spring and summer to visit my patch and implement some of these improvements. The berries are happy so I will be very careful how I proceed and plan each action taking many things into consideration. Also if anyone, with experience in managing wild lingonberry stands, would like of offer me some advice I would greatly appreciate it. AB Delta Junction, AK
 Bailey, R. 2016. Grow your own lingonberries. Available online: Lingonberries Accessed Oct. 2, 2016
The National Gardening Association. 2016. The mighty lingonberry. Available online: 
Lingonberries Accessed Oct. 2,
 
Alaska Channel. 2016. Low bush cranberry. Available online: Low bush cranberry. 
Accessed Oct. 2, 2016
 
Deane, G. 2016. Bunchberry Brunch. Available online: Bunchberry. Accessed Oct. 2, 2016

Highbush cranberry recipes

High bush Cranberries  This article is by author, Corrine Conlon, and in it she presents some interesting information about the high bush cranberry and some of the things she does with it, as well as some of the combinations friends of hers have concocted. She also includes a description of the plant and some of the pros and cons of picking them. Conlon, C. 2016. Gathering Alaska: Juice and jelly from highbush cranberries. Available online http://juneauempire.com/art/2016-09-21/gathering-alaska-juice-and-jelly-highbush-cranberries Accessed on: 28 Sep, 2016.

Lingonberry differences

Differences in Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
     I recently went out and picked some lingonberries. There were two distinct patches from which I harvested two different kinds of berries. To the untrained eye, both areas had the same amount of shade and were roughly 10 meters apart. The leaves for both plants look the same and there was no noticeable difference between the plants.
The darker berries were larger than the brighter berries, and when cut open, the flesh was also a darker red. It was harder to distinguish where the seeds were located. There was also no taste difference between the berries.
My working theory is that one patch of berries does get more sun than another, this activates more of the red pigments known as anthocyanins. They may have tasted the same because it had been several days after the first frost when these berries are supposedly ripe. Another theory I developed was that the darker berries were overripe compared to the bright red ones. This idea, however, would not explain the difference in size.  CM Fairbanks

Northern Bushcraft in Canada

Check out this site that has a summary of all the wild berries found in the northern provinces of Canada plus lots more. Northern Bushcraft

The Search for Lingonberries

lingon-flower-buds
After a solid afternoon of studying, my younger sister and I headed out for a walk around the neighborhood. Because we live next to a powerline cut, I thought that was a good place to go look at various plants and vegetation. We came across multiple stands of lingonberries. I didn’t know that we had so many close to our house. My sister enjoyed eating them after I explained what they were. She is a berry eating machine! I personally don’t care for raw lingonberries, but she was all over them. There are plenty more to go out and pick. We had fun counting all the buds that will hopefully turn into berries for next year. It made for a fun afternoon. CM Fairbanks

Bears and Berries

Bears and Berries

Bears are of serious concern for many Alaskan berry pickers. With many berries ripening around fall in the interior, both black bears and grizzlies are gearing up for winter hibernation and need to consume as many calories as possible. I have encountered many bears while out berry picking and not only is safety an issue of concern but so is the bears need for nutrients. While we know as nature harvesters that we are not alone and we are not dominant we also need to know how to be safe while in “bear country”.

A few safety tips while berry picking; make noise so not to startle nearby animals, be aware of your surroundings and aware that surroundings can change quickly. It is safe to go with another person or in a group, but that is not always possible. Depending on your comfort levels and the location in which you choose to berry pick, a bear bell, bear spray or even a large caliber gun may be recommended. It is also important to have a basic understanding of the animals you may encounter.

Bears are massive wild animals that can weigh anywhere between 200lbs (black bear) and 800lbs (grizzly bear)(National Geographic). They can be nearly as small as a large dog or taller than a full grown man and are almost pure muscle. Berries are important to bears livelihood because they provide a major source of nutrients and are abundant in the wilderness. Bears are also very important to the propagation of berries. A black bear can consume over 30,000 berries in one day and the seeds pass through the bear’s digestive system unbroken and able to germinate (Berries). They can be distributed miles always from the original site and encourage more growth in the following years. These berries contain high amounts of antioxidants and the seeds of some species can contain vitamin B-17, these are both considered anti-cancer compounds by some scientists, and although captive bears have been found to have cancer, no wild bears have ever been reported to have cancer (Berries).

As we know, berries are important to us for our own personal consumption, we also know how important they are to bears. Be safe while you are berry harvesting but also be respectful.

Here is a video of a couple bears eating berries. You can see how fast and efficiently they can consume them, probably better than a berry rake. (VIDEO)  LH Fairbanks

 

“Berries – a Critical Food.” North American Bear Center -. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Society, National Geographic. “American Black Bears, American Black Bear Pictures, American Black Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Society, National Geographic. “Grizzly Bears, Grizzly Bear Pictures, Grizzly Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Berry picking in Canada

This is a short story by author Ron Melchiore about how his family uses the woods around their property to harvest Blueberries and Cranberries. He walks you through their process and their approximate annual yield for each season of harvesting as well as sharing some of the products his family makes with the berries. this article is quite informative and well worth the read even if it is a quick one! AA Fairbanks/Seward

Melchiore, R. 2016. From the ravages of fire come berries. Available online: Berry picking

Berries and Survival

Survival of the Berries  Here are some tips about eating berries in the wilderness. I thought this would be a nice blog post not only because it is great information but who knows maybe one day it could save a life. I hike a lot and I actually carry a field guide on me that talks about plants and berries. If I am not 100% familiar with the plant I do not plan on eating it. This  article talks about berries of the rose family being edible (Edible and non Edible Berries p. 2, Angela). That is something nice and easy to remember when hiking out and about.

Berries in the wild

Berry Rakes- good and bad

Berry Rakes for Better or Worse
I have often wondered whether the berry rakes used by berry pickers actually worked against the pickers’ wishes. Although not many of us rely on berries as one of a few food sources, we would like to continue areas of good yield whenever possible. While berry rakes may allow for more berries to be picked in a short period of time, do they really help in the long run? According to this article in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, many people do not know how to use rakes correctly, causing lots of harm to the stands where they are harvesting. The article lists several different people’s opinion on how to properly use rakes without harming the plants and whether they are actually necessary.
The article can be found here: berry rakes

A Forestry Experiment

Cranberries lost and found. When I was younger the area where I grew up used to be full of spots to pick lowbush cranberries (lingonberries). My family and I did not even have to go far. We could just ride our bikes down some local back roads and the berries would be growing all around; next to the roads and along the edges of the woods. There were some very nice spots deeper into the woods where the poplar and quaking aspen trees grew. The woods were not dense and the forest floor had many sunny and shady spots; the berries grew in abundance. But all this abruptly changed about four years ago on the evening of Sept. 15th 2012, an immense wind storm began to blow. The storm lasted for a few days after but the night of the 15th was of a certainty the worse any of us had ever seen. The winds were so strong that some of the blasts were rated as being hurricane force though no rain accompanied them. When it was all said and done nearly 500 acres of trees in the surrounding forests and valleys had been blown over. Because of the shallowness of their root systems when trees fell their wide root systems pulled great hunks of the forest floor with them. Many of our usually berry patches were literally ripped up by their roots and still many more were buried by fallen trees and branches. Our trails became essentially impassible, and the aspect of the forest changed so much that once familiar landscapes had become a shocking picture of nature’s destructive force.
This event attracted the notice of the local forestry division and they began to look more closely at our area. One forester in particular had a burden to make our area a safer residential zone; he felt that the thickness of the forests near our roads and near our houses was an extreme fire danger. In the summer of 2014 forestry sent a large crew to our area and they began to clear the trees near all the roads. We thought that this would be a relatively small project. A continuation of the cleanup projects that they had been helping us and the others in the area with because of the Great Storm. Time past and the tree lines along the roads moved back from 10ft to 20ft and more; then forestry decided more clearings deeper into the forests needed to be created as LZs for supplies and crews if a fire did occur. They did much cutting with chainsaws which was not very damaging, but this took too long so they brought a great drum with metal ribs on its outsides and filled with water. This giant cylinder was pulled behind a big piece of equipment and reduced acres of forest to great openings filled with ripped up vegetation and crushed timbers. Needless to say any and all berries in these areas have been completely eradicated. I and others in the valley have found other patches deeper into the forests and so all is not lost, but I do wish that in their quest to make us all safer forestry had not been so completely successful in removing all burnable substances for miles around. This project is still ongoing even this summer a crew was working behind our homes deeper into the forest cutting more and burning great piles of brush.
I understand the need for safety but I do hope that one day the berry patches will come back. A few of the men in our neighborhood, who own and run a logging and milling business, say that given time the torn landscapes most likely will grow up into deciduous forests. They hope that the increased sunlight and nutrients will begin to bring long dormant seeds to life. I see this being a good thing as in the past the best patches I found were under the canopies of deciduous trees. I have put in a few interesting links about lingonberries and the likely hood of whether the old patches I used to know will ever return. I have looked for info on the particular method of tree removal that I mentioned, but apparently it was an experiment forestry was trying. Their hope was that the deciduous trees would come back and are keeping an eye in this area to see how fast the forest takes to regrow including the underlying groundcover such as berry bushes. Because it is a new method I could not find much info about it I guess only time will tell. I will continue to watch the patches of cleared land to see how fast.the vegetation takes to come back. The following links are simply interesting research articles on Lingonberries and Alaskan berries that are important to Alaskan communities in general. AB Delta Junction
Websites:
By Richard G. St Pierre, Ph.D. 2016
Accessed Sept. 19,
By Various researchers: Michael Brubaker, Jerry Hupp, Kira Wilkinson, Jennifer Williamson.
Accessed Sept. 20, 2016