Finally the rain, after months of scorching sun the trees and plants are eagerly turning their leaves upward to catch the first of the autumn downpour and if you have not harvested from the abundant wild berries around us, sadly you have missed it for another year.
There are many fruits you can eat in the forests and from along the river paths, salmonberries, thimble berries, they taste a bit bland and the useful blackberry, just to name a few. But if you are going to go wild-crafting I suggest you take someone with you who can identify what you pick and remember to always leave something behind for the forest folk and next year’s propagation.
There are three kinds of blackberries here in British Columbia, our own native trailing blackberry and the Himalayan and Evergreen Blackberry.
Our own British Columbian trailing blackberry is quite small, bearing a delicate flower and fruit, the tiny white flower turns into a slightly elongated berry about mid –summer and is a favourite of the many creatures that live in the woods and meadows. It’s leaves are still used in herbal teas and it can be harvested to make remedies for several ailments and like all blackberries is full of vitamin C.
The trailing blackberry grows low on the ground in turned pasture, road sides and especially where there has been damage by fire. It has small sharp pointed leaves in a set of three and scrambles across the path ready to trip you up if you are not watching.
The Himalayan and Evergreen blackberry came to our shores via the early settlers who grew them commercially because of the bigger fruit.
The Himalayan plant is reported to have come originally from India, while the Evergreen was brought over from Europe.
There are many similarities between the two plants, both grow in thick masses making hedges where ever they are allowed to take root, they both have full sweet fruit, but the Himalayan has large shield shaped leaves with small hair like prickles along the edge.
It’s flower is white to pink in colour with five slightly elongated petals.
While the Evergreen blackberry has very beautiful many pointed leaves with the petals of it’s flower showing slightly jagged edges. Both plants can be harvested between August and September producing fruit for pies, jam wine cordial and liqueurs - delicious!
Despite the fact that the Himalayan and Evergreen blackberries are invasive species in their uncultivated form, the wild things rely on them to stock up for the winter.
A favourite of the bear and the birds they both help spread the plants from woodland to ditches making it extremely difficult to get rid of the bushes once they have set up home on their desired patch.
Next mid-summer take a stroll along the different parts of the Alouette River and fill your basket, there’s nothing like home-made blackberry jam for tea.
– Liz Hancock is a member of the Alouette River Management Society. She is also a writer, artist, environmentalist, and teacher of self-sustainable living.
Discover the joys of flora and fauna in our rural areas. Liz welcomes questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.