Salal berry could be perhaps one of the most widely abundant and under appreciated wild fruits of the Pacific Northwest. Common along coast lines, coniferous forest, logging roads, and river banks, Salal is a delightful treat that can be enjoyed during most outdoor adventures. While resembling a leathery blueberry in appearance, it has a juicy sweet flavor all of its own. Yet even despite its current unpopularity, Salal has made its mark in times past.
Salal has a long history as an important staple with the coastal native Americans. The Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwok-wok-ya-wok) harvested the berries and dried them into flat cakes for the winter months. During large feast the berries were dipped into oolichan grease and enjoyed as a delicacy. If not used as a sweetener the Haida often mixed Salal berries to thicken salmon eggs, and the young leaves were chewed by the Ditidaht as an appetite suppressor. It was also common for Salal to be mixed with other berries such as elderberries and currents to be used for trading.
Going to flower in mid-spring Salal berries can be collected and enjoyed throughout the summer months. Its juicy/fleshy pulp makes a great jam and can be used to make tasty fruit leather, pies, muffins and wine. In my experience harvesting can be a little tricky when learning how to pick these berries. Rather than trying to pull the berry off of its stem, try rolling the berry away from the stem for an easy release. Otherwise you might find when ‘pulling’ the berry skin is more likely to give before the stem does.
If you have yet to try Salal berry why not give this tasty little fruit a try? And as you do so be sure to take a look around and reflect. Because once upon a time, this fruit was more than just a snack, it was a way of life to a people only now read about.
Thanks for reading and as always, Happy Foraging!
Resource: Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, by Pojar Mackinnon.
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