Seeking locations for wild berries

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Snargboz
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Joined: August 16th, 2019, 8:09 am

Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by Snargboz » August 19th, 2019, 9:37 pm

Greetings and salutations,

I've been spending some of my summer looking for wild berries. I got this book called "Wild Berries of Washington and Oregon" by T. Abe Lloyd and it kind of inspired me. I'm looking for new and interesting fruit with which to make jam, syrups, etc. And I want to see if I can propagate these plants and grow them in my own garden. I think it's an interesting challenge and I could produce my own fruit and share the plants with other people.

But I can't really find them. The descriptions of their locations are usually general "grows in moist forests" and such. That's not very specific and I've been going all over hell looking for berries and not finding them. For example: I spent all day driving and walking around hunting for blue elderberries last week and only found some because someone on a trail told me where to look. I know they're out there. I just don't know where.

I was hoping some of the kind people here might have spotted these plants on their travels and could tell me where to find them. I want to get fruit and stem cuttings for propagation purposes. And I if I can find enough fruit to make a batch of jam even better. At the very least I would like to taste these things.

Home base is Oregon City.

I know the season is over for a lot of berries but at least some should be ripening now or soon. And some early summer berries may still be there at higher elevations (they seem about three weeks behind stuff at sea level).

Obviously I can't trespass on private property or harvest where it isn't allowed. I have no desire to dig up plants or damage the ecology.

I'll include the scientific names as well for the sake of precision.

I am hunting for: Salal (gaultheria shallon), currants and gooseberries (ribes genus), chokecherry (prunus virginiana), blue elderberry (sambucus cerulea), all huckleberries, cranberries, and blueberries (basically the entire vaccinium genus), smooth sumac (rhus glabra), wolfberry (lycium barbarum), honeysuckles (lonicera genus), netleaf hackberry (celtis laevigata), bunchbery (cornus unalalaschkensis), and black crowberry (empetrum nigrum). I'm open to suggestions for others, of course.

I think the season for thimbleberries, salmonberries, trailing blackberry, red elderberry and many others are done. Himalayan blackberries grow everywhere (incredibly invasive) and are easy to find.

I'll start by sharing myself: I was at Silver Falls state park today. In the South Falls day use area there is a ton of cutleaf blackberry but it isn't ripe yet. I estimate another two weeks. There is also some salal there (also not ripe yet) and earlier in the summer I found small amounts of red elderberry and thimbleberry. Salmonberry is all over the place there but we'll have to wait until next spring for those.

Thanks in advance.

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retired jerry
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by retired jerry » August 20th, 2019, 5:22 am

thimbleberries and salmonberries or sort of tasteless - hardly worth screwing with

I transplanted some salal - hard to get enough roots. There are places on the coast where they're all over.

Snargboz
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by Snargboz » August 20th, 2019, 6:29 am

Salmonberries are pretty tasteless. I actually thought thimbleberries were delicious. A lovely zing of tart. It's too bad they are so small. It would take a ton of them to make a batch of jam.

I can't figure out whether salmonberry is self fertile or not. Trailing blackberry (rubus ursinus) is not. It has male and female plants. Salmonberry may be the same or it may not. It may depend on the particular plant.

There is surprisingly little good information done by academic researchers on native wild plants. I want to make observations and see if I can compile some good data and share it.

Salal is devlishly hard to get going from cuttings. I've heard that taking some of the root during winter works well. I know someone growing it and they will let me do that.

What I've noticed about salal is that it getting it to bear fruit seems to be a delicate balancing act between sun and shade. In shade the plants grow like mad vegetatively. But they won't bear fruit. When the plants get hit with direct sun they will usually start to fruit. But vegetatively the plant seems unhappy. Too much sun and you kill the plant (I've done this with a nursery start). Too little sun and you get no fruit. If I can determine an optimum balance for maximum fruit production I could share those results. My current thinking is that the plant needs to be grown in deep shade for a year or more and then moved to part sun. The same result could be achieved with a scaffolding covered with shade cloth that can be moved.

A few tips for picking salal: You've got to get the berry when it is dead ripe. It can look ripe but not be. When it is still light purple it will be tart. When the berries look black but the bottom ends haven't opened up it usually tasteless. Look for the blossom end (the bottom) to have separated out. Taste one berry from the fruiting stem. If it tasted good the rest of the berries on the stem are probably fine. If not just leave the stem for a week or two. Just cut the whole fruiting stem off when you are ready to harvest. This won't harm the plant as you are taking off no leaves and the fruiting stem will drop off in a couple of months anyway. Size of the berries seems to have no correlation to ripeness. I've tasted plenty that were large but unripe. I still don't know what determines size.

I think salal has the potential to be a useful commercial crop. It has good flavor. It fruits fairly heavily for a plant that has not been selectively bred for greater production. The seeds are small enough not to be offensive or ruin the texture. It tastes a lot like blueberry so it is more likely to get acceptance. It's pretty low maintenance. It doesn't have thorns.

I could see it working well as a secondary crop planted between trees in orchards. Or in plastic shade cloth tunnels.

If I can get some plants established (I'd like to have at least a dozen seedlings) I am going to see what it does when provided with irrigation, fertilization, disease control, and mulching. It's in the same family as blueberries (the heath/heather family) so it probably wants acidic, low fertility soils with lots of water.

I intend to try different potting mixes and mixes of sun and shade to see how it responds.

It surprises me that plant breeders haven't worked on salal. It's right under our noses, tastes good, and plant material is widely available. Because it grows in such a large geographical range there ought to be decent genetic diversity to play with.

Sorry to have written a treatise. I like salal berries.

justpeachy
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by justpeachy » August 20th, 2019, 6:56 am

We're just getting into huckleberry season, and they'll be profuse in many places. Indian Heaven Wilderness is known for huckleberries. Hikers snacking on berries are fine, but if you're planning to haul out buckets of berries and gather cuttings, you will need a permit from the Forest Service. This recent article has more info.

If you have specific questions that need answering, you could use the OSU Extension Service Ask a Question service.

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drm
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by drm » August 20th, 2019, 12:18 pm

You didn't indicate how much hiking you are willing to do. I think that berry patches near roads are already known by experienced pickers and don't last long. In some ways, we hikers do better because we hike for miles and miles just because we like doing that, and then we find berries a long ways from the road that just happen to be there - assuming we aren't staring at the ground and just walk right past them! People who just want berries don't do those long hikes and so the vast hoards of berry pickers are in great competition for berries that require the least effort. That's a generalization of course.

So the thing is if you want to get berries with the least physical effort, a hiking board like this probably doesn't know where they are, maybe aside from having noticed the astonishingly huge paved parking lot north of Indian Heaven called Berry Fields. And the ones we know, we just ate when we found them! The huckleberry plant is widespread in our region, especially where there are lots of meadows (which is why Indian Heaven is so good). So just put your boots on and walk in Indian Heaven and choose trails that branch off the PCT - and don't stare at the ground! And maybe even get off trail - find those meadows and follow their perimeter.

Snargboz
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by Snargboz » August 21st, 2019, 7:03 am

I'm perfectly happy to hike around looking for berries. Putting forth physical effort isn't an issue. Roadside berries are more convenient, in some cases. But it is my expectation I would need to do substantial walking to find berries. I expect that berries that are in trails, meadows, etc will probably be better than those found on roadsides. Roadside conditions and pollution are worse than that found in more pristine areas.

Even if I don't find enough berries for culinary use I can get cuttings and seed from different places and have some genetic diversity in my plantings. Plants that are genetically distinct should be planted next to each other for the purposes of pollination.

cfm
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Re: Seeking locations for wild berries

Post by cfm » August 24th, 2019, 11:59 am

Huckleberries are ripe now in the mountains, you usually need to get above 2000ft in open meadows. You will find them around Mt Hood, Mt Jeff, St Helens, anywhere you have exposed sunny ridges. Yesterday I collected 4quarts in the Yacolt Burn area north of Silverstar. Serviceberry and thimbleberries also ripe and interspersed with the huckles which were the most abundant.
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