It’s fruit and berry season in much of British Columbia.
Huckle berries are always a local tasty treat in Northern B.C. but all in all, the province is home to about 40 different kinds of berries.
Richard Hebda teaches biology at the University of Victoria and is the Curator of Botany an Earth History at the Royal B.C. Museum.
He has written A Field Guide to Edible Fruits and Berries of the Pacific Northwest (Harbour Publishing) and has shared these tips for foraging in the wild:
According to Hebda:
1. Know the plant as well as the fruit or berry.
Familiarize yourself with the leaves of the plant, as well as the fruit. Get to know what it looks like throughout the year. This will help you correctly identify edible (and inedible) fruits and berries.
2. It’s not just about the berries.
Take the time to enjoy being in the great outdoors and connecting with the environment. Enjoy the search as much as the picking.
3. Be prepared to embrace unfamiliar flavours and textures.
Trailing blackberries are smaller than their invasive counterparts, the Himalayan and cut-leaf blackberries. They cover the ground with thin, thorny stems and turn from sour red to sweet black fruit by midsummer. You can find them in coastal regions along roadsides, ditches, fences and fields.
Wild fruits and berries are often less sweet, more intense and slightly “greener” tasting than those that are farmed.
They can often taste slightly bitter or sour at first, but also have a sense of place.
Hebda says you can quickly grow to love the unfamiliar flavours: “Like being a wine connoisseur, you can become a berry connoisseur.”
Many berries and fruits make excellent preserves and pies, thanks to their intense flavours
4. Share the bounty, and leave plenty for others.
Wild fruits and berries don’t grow in the same abundance as farmed counterparts. Be sure to leave lots for others, including the wild animals and birds who may depend on them for nutrients.
When picking near a roadside or path, never pick a patch clean. Leave plenty for other folks to look at and sample.
5. If you’re not sure, DON’T EAT IT.
Never eat anything you can’t identify beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Learn to identify toxic berries and plants. Most white berries are toxic and should be avoided, as are many dark blue or black-coloured berries and red berries.
Have a bountiful berry season. Pick, eat and enjoy.