Category Archives: Foraging

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!


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.

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

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.

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

Alaska-Yukon Circumboreal Region Map

Here is a great document with outstanding photos of a mapping project for the vegetation of the Alaska-Yukon Region by Fairbanks researcher, Torre Jorgensen and others. It is an attempt to refine vegetation classification systems using the latest technology.

Jorgensen, T. and D. Meidinger. 2015. The Alaska Yukon Region of the Circumboreal Vegetation map (CBVM). CAFF Strategies Series Report. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, Akureyri, Iceland. ISBN: 978-


Circumboreal Map

Variable Wild Harvests in Alaska

Alaska Public Media recently reported on a study that invited Alaskans to report on the quality of their local berry harvests. The study “suggests that the harvests of several popular wild berries are becoming less reliable in many areas of the state.”

Further research is necessary to investigate what may or may not be causing this reported variability, but I have wondered often what sort of changes we might expect to see from berries due to the unseasonable weather we’ve experienced in recent years.

That being said, my picking spots provided ample highbush and alpine blueberries this year! We access them with boats and ample hiking, so picking pressure is low.

Berry Picking in Finland

Today I thought about my attitude towards berry picking when I was a kid. Me, my brother and my parents used to go berry picking together a lot. Blueberries, raspberries, cloudberries… I think it’s funny how me and my brother were talked into berry picking: we were promised to get a burger and fries from our little local grill after a long day in the forest. Today I wouldn’t enjoy that burger as much as I enjoy fresh berries picked up with my own hands from the pretty forests in Finland! Now that is the real reward after roaming a long day in the woods!- Sofia H.

Picking Cloudberries in Estonia

Here’s a short blog about cloudberry picking and recipes from Estonia. Cloudberries and cheese- looks good!  Cloudberries in Estonia

Arctic Berry Harvesting- Churchill, Canada

This site lists the common berries found in and around Churchill,Canada and great information about the berries, photos,  and personal harvesting reports, as well as tidbits about wildlife and birds in the area. Churchill, Canada Berries. It includes kinnikinnick, wild blueberries, bunchberries, cloudberries, bog cranberries, crowberries, gooseberries, raspberries, lingonberries and highbush cranberries.

Trailside Foraging, Pollutants

I live in Anchorage and am an avid user of the urban trail system. On my bike commutes, I often see people foraging for large quantities of berries and leafy greens in close proximity to busy roadways. I might steal a berry every now and then, but I have always been wary of collecting in mass from areas that might be concentrating heavy metals.

I’ve had many an urban forager share their tactics to avoid concentrated chemicals: stay 52 feet from the roadway! Leaves are safe but roots are not!

A student project at Bangor University found heavy metals in roadside blackberries to be “well below any dangerous intake levels.” The University of Minnesota Extension names lead as a soil contaminant of concern, but refrains from being alarmist:

“Studies have shown that lead does not readily accumulate in the fruiting parts of vegetable and fruit crops (e.g., corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, apples). Higher concentrations are more likely to be found in leafy vegetables (e.g., lettuce) and on the surface of root crops (e.g., carrots).”

Even in soils where lead exceeds safe concentrations, the greatest risk appears to be in consuming actual soil on the plant. Washing thoroughly is sound practice. It is also good to remember how lucky we are here to live in urban settings so close to wilderness. These natural areas will still be my foraging location of choice.

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?

Food Forest

Food Forest SeattleThe Beacon Food Forest is being planned out for Seattle. A permaculture experiment intended to provide food to the public.