British Columbia

Salmonberries, huckleberries and other wild B.C. treats

Botanist Richard Hebda and author of "A Field Guide to Edible Fruits and Berries of the Pacific Northwest" offers some tips on safely foraging for berries and fruit around B.C.

Taste of the Wild: Foraging for fruits and berries in B.C.

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      It's fruit and berry season around the province, and not just on farms and in orchards: B.C. is home to over 40 different kinds of wild fruits and berries.

      Richard Hebda teaches biology at the University of Victoria and is the Curator of Botany an Earth History at the Royal B.C. Museum.

      He's written A Field Guide to Edible Fruits and Berries of the Pacific Northwest (Harbour Publishing) and has shared these tips for foraging in the wild:

      1. Know the plant as well as the fruit or berry.

      Familiarize yourself with the leaves of the plant, as well as the fruit. Get to know what it looks like throughout the year. This will help you correctly identify edible (and inedible) fruits and berries. 

      2. It's not just about the berries.

      Take the time to enjoy being in the great outdoors and connecting with the environment. Enjoy the search as much as the picking.

      3. Be prepared to embrace unfamiliar flavours and textures.

      Trailing blackberries are smaller than than their invasive counterparts, the Himalayan and cutleaf blackberries. They cover the ground with thin, thorny stems and turn from sour red to sweet black fruit by midsummer. You can find them in coastal regions along roadsides, ditches, fences and fields. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

      Wild fruits and berries are often less sweet, more intense and slightly "greener" tasting than those that are farmed.

      They can often taste slightly bitter or sour at first, but also have a sense of place.

      Hebda says you can quickly grow to love the unfamiliar flavours: "Like being a wine connoisseur, you can become a berry connoisseur."

      Many berries and fruits make excellent preserves and pies, thanks to their intense flavours.

      4. Share the bounty, and leave plenty for others.

      Wild fruits and berries don't grow in the same abundance as farmed counterparts. Be sure to leave lots for others, including the wild animals and birds who may depend on them for nutrients.

      When picking near a roadside or path, never pick a patch clean. Leave plenty for other folks to look at and sample.

      5. If you're not sure, DON'T EAT IT.

      Never eat anything you can't identify beyond a shadow of a doubt.

      Learn to identify toxic berries and plants. Most white berries are toxic and should be avoided, as are many dark blue or black-coloured berries and red berries.

      Again, get to know the whole plant, and when in doubt, don't eat it.

      Click through the photo gallery at the top of this article for images of some wild B.C. berries and fruits that are ripe in some regions right now.

      Do you have a favourite wild B.C. fruit or berry? Tell us in the comments below.


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