Harvesting Salmonberries – Using The Berries and Leaves

harvesting salmonberries

Foraging for salmonberries has become a favorite late spring throughout summer treat. The plan is the same every year, harvest enough to make jam and freeze some berries to make pies and cobbler during the cold months of winter. Each and every year we try to beat the bears and birds to them. Each and every year we tend to lose the race, but NOT this year!

Harvesting salmonberry

The race begins when these beautiful magenta flowers start showing through the dense forest, which is also a sign that the bears will soon be waking, announcing that harvest season is just around the corner. If we are lucky we are able to harvest between the months of May to August, but like I said, there is a fight for the berries, and whoever gets to them first receives the prize. Unlike their cousin the raspberry, salmonberries grow under the canopy of the forest, needing very little sunlight to produce this sweet little berry. They grow prolifically from Alaska down through parts of California and the only thing we have found to stop them from spreading is a herd of hungry goats!

harvesting salmonberry

Unlike the typical berry the salmonberry, when ripe, can be either yellow, orange or red, and should easily pull off the cane when picked. The berries have many uses and I am sure that there are ways that we have yet to try, but our favorite method is to make jam, freeze the berries for later use, or to make a delicious vinegar dressing using kombucha that has become to vinegary to drink. This year we will be adding the berries as a second ferment for our kombucha. The young spring shoots can be eaten when cooked (sauteed or stir fry is fabulous) or simply serve them fresh in a veggie tray. The flowers are also edible and can be used in salads, or simply cut a stem for a beautiful flower arrangement. Now, if you are interested in making wine (my husband stated I needed to add this) here is a recipe that sounds good – salmonberry wine. If anyone has a tried and true recipe, please send it to us, we would be VERY grateful!

harvesting salmonberry

I am just beginning to learn the medicinal purposes for the leaves and bark, but in my research I discovered that the leaves can be used in herbal teas; just make sure to use them fresh or completely dried. The wilted leaves can be toxic…make sure to dry them very well! Earlier settlers used salmonberry root and bark to cure intestinal ailments due to the over consumption of salmon, and the bark was pounded and applied to aching teeth to relieve pain ~ I will be personally testing this last part; I have a tooth which the root has become exposed and I am looking for something to ease the pain! The bark can also be used as a poultice for treating wounds and burns. If you would like a little pampering, use the leaves and bark in a facial steam for oily skin, or add the leaves for an herbal bath, you can also boil the leaves and use the liquid as a hair rinse.

Living in the Pacific Northwest truly allows us the pleasure to forage for delicious items, but to be able to discover the medicinal purpose of the vegetation growing around us is one of the most amazing parts of homesteading!

Scoby for kombucha

Steam Canner for canning high acidic items such as jams, jellies, and pickled items

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  1. These do look delicious. We have something similar called a wine berry. Also a kin to the raspberry but the seeds are soft. I don’t bother to remove the seeds when making jam. It’s almost wine berry season here. Late June is the normal time frame and the wetter the spring the better the berries. So this year should be epic!


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