Here are 7 tasty berries growing wild in the Okanagan - InfoNews

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Here are 7 tasty berries growing wild in the Okanagan

Chokecherries
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
July 15, 2020 - 7:40 AM

The Okanagan Valley is well known for its array of orchards and variety of commercially grown fruit offering locals and tourists alike a chance to pick their own produce fresh from the field.

However, outside of the farms and orchards, the valley is also home to a multitude of wild native berries for anyone to forage. Former iNFOnews.ca columnist and professional forager Scott Moran gives his take on seven of the most popular wild fruits growing in and around the Okanagan. And this year's cooler weather and rain are making it a great season for wild berries.

"While the orchards are struggling, the wild food is thriving," Moran said. 

Identifying berries correctly is key to picking your own, and this list should not be used for identification purposes. Moran also warns people to watch out for bears. The sugar in ripe berries is a carb-fest for bears and humans aren't the only ones keen on stocking up.

In no particular order, here are seven berries that grow wild in the Okanagan during the summer.

Saskatoon berries
Saskatoon berries

1) Saskatoon berries

"They're not exactly the same as the ones you get in the prairies," Moran says. "In my opinion, they're not as nice." However, Moran says they still make great jam, pies, syrup, and you can eat them raw.

Black Hawthorn berries.
Black Hawthorn berries.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

2) Black Hawthorn berries

"An amazing native berry," Moran says. They don't grow much in the Central Okanagan but can be found from Vernon and the North Okanagan to the Shuswap. The berries should be ready for picking soon. They make great syrup and have no acidity. Moran says they taste a little like plumbs once cooked. With very hard seeds, you'll have to be careful not to damage your teeth.

Chokecherries
Chokecherries
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3) Chokecherries

There are two different types found in the Okanagan, a red berry and a dark purple berry. They will start to be in season mid-summer. "They have a pit in them that looks a bit like cherry and they don't have much flesh," says Moran. "If they're not juicy they really make your mouth pucker." They are great for making chutney and ketchup and barbeque sauce with.
As the season goes on they become less sour and a lot juicer.

Oregon grapes
Oregon grapes
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

4) Oregon grapes

These are "very sour," says Moran. Should be ready for picking in the Central Okanagan about now, and they grow on a spikey bush similar to holly. Moran says they go well with venison as a red wine style sauce. Because of their sour taste, most people make jelly with them. "They're the most challenging for sure," Moran says. "But they have a lot of potential."

Huckleberry.
Huckleberry.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5) Huckleberries

These are found in the mountains in mainly in the North Okanagan and the Shuswap. Silverstar and Big White should have them by August. They're really juicy, have no big seeds, and sell for twice the price of anything else, says Moran. They're also very popular with bears. "Anything you do with them is going to be good, there's is no bad way to have (them)," Moran says. A great recipe for a Huckleberry Crème Brûlée from iNwine's Jennifer Schell can be found here.

Elderberries
Elderberries
Image Credit: Needpix.com

6) Elderberries

Three types of elderberries can be found in the Okanagan, the native red and blue elderberries and a European black berry. Moran says the red berry is toxic and not used much, the blue is easier to find in the lower parts of the Okanagan and should be out soon. The black berry is the sweetest but harder to find and it likes cooler temperatures. "They're sour, they have no sugar at all," says Moran. They're a popular health food, cited as having good anti-viral qualities. You can put them in tea, make juice or jam with them. Elderberry pie is popular and Moran says they also make great wine.

Thimbleberries
Thimbleberries
Image Credit: Needpix.com

7) Thimbleberries

"A great one to snack on where you're walking along the trail," Moran says. Named because they look like a thimble, Moran says they have a very rich taste. Largely found at higher elevations and should be ready to eat any day now.

Scott Moran is a professional forager and can be found at the Kelowna Farmers' Market every Saturday. Check him out here.


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