With the warm weather finally arriving and plenty of rain early in the season, it has all the makings of a seriously fabulous berry season.
So far, the Saskatoon berry bush in my front yard only has a few ripe ones, but they are coming, and my friend recently returned from picking with a bucket full of huckleberries.
My grandmother was just telling me stories about her early days picking berries, and how she and her mother, grandmother and siblings would be dropped off in the bush where they picked each year and camped for days at a time to harvest the forest fruits.
It made me realize how my growing up and picking berries was part of a long tradition in my family, and how lucky I am to have grown up eating fresh and preserved wild berries all my life.
It also reminded me about a book I was sent from Lone Pine Publishing earlier this year to review, and which I had only flipped through but hadn’t taken out to use yet.
The book is Wildberries of British Columbia, and it is a colourful guide to some of the native berries of the province, edible and inedible both.
The book is easily laid out and has bright and clear photos and diagrams of the different species of berry-producing plants and bushes and gives lots of detailed information on edibility, season, gathering tips and even some recipes for enjoying some of the fruits.
There are no range maps or specifics for exactly where you might find each berry, but they do give general descriptions of the types of habitat the berries prefer to point you in the right direction.
There are also no medicinal uses for the berries, so anyone looking for medicinal applications should look elsewhere, but there is some really interesting information on First Nations uses of many of the plants, even some considered somewhat toxic.
While the book is not a definitive plant guide, and doesn’t include the more rare species, it does give some great ideas for using some of the lesser-utilized berries such as Oregon-grape or juniper.
I especially appreciated some clarification on some of the more commonly confused species such as gooseberries and currants, or huckleberries and wild blueberries, as these always seemed to be the source of endless debates in my family.
While my mother and both grandmothers have taught me a lot about berry-picking through my life, I think this little book is just the thing for me to fill in the gaps.