By Marika Varro
Salmonberry, a member of the rose family and a close relative of raspberries, is native to the West Coast of North America. Rich in vitamins C and K as well as manganese, the reddish-orange berries can be eaten raw or made into jams, jellies or wine and are often frozen for later use. They are highly perishable and have a very short shelf life. The young shoots can be eaten raw or cooked like asparagus and the leaves can be used as tea.
Salmonberry (not a true berry) was an important food source for the Tla’amin people. Its name is believed to have derived from the fact that Native Americans ate this fruit with salmon and salmon roe.
“Salmonberry has a long history in my nation’s diet,” says Erik Blaney, a member of the Tla’amin Nation.“The people gathered the ripe berries, made them into cakes and dried them for later use with salmon. The salmon was smoked and dried, placed in woven bas- kets of cedar bark and stored underground in a food cache. To eat, the salmonberry cake was re-hydrated with herring oil or bear fat, the salmon was heated in a pit lined with skunk-cabbage leaves and the salmon was then dipped into the re-hydrated salmonberry. In the spring, the young shoots were eaten, and still are. As a treat, children dip the fresh shoots into sugar and it is called pa’aje (pa adga). The new shoots taste like asparagus or fiddleheads.”
The fruits, leaves and flowers provide food for many animals like bears and hummingbirds.
Not just a food, Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) has many medicinal uses, too. Its leaves can be used as a poultice for dressing burns while its bark can make a poultice to ease toothaches and cure open wounds. Its roots can be mashed and boiled to treat stomach problems and ease labour pains.
Serve with ice-cream or whipping cream.
- 4 cups fresh salmonberries (they are seedy, which will add a crunchytexture to this dessert)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Mix above ingredients and pour into a prepared 9×9 baking pan.
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup oatmeal
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)
Place in food processor and pulse until crumbly. Sprinkle over berry mixture and bake in pre-heated 350F oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden.