This particular berry is shaped more like a raspberry and ranges in color from pale yellow to deep orange. It is found across much of the Pacific Northwest and is specifically native to Alaska. Salmonberry is well-known for colonizing wet sites west of the Cascades. The berries can be slightly bitter to sweet, depending upon their maturity. Hikers will often time snack on these berries as they make their way along trails.
Salmonberries grow on bushes or shrubs of up to six feet tall with broad, fuzzy leaves and thorns. Salmonberries have small pink flowers that mature into fruits between June and August, depending on the latitude and elevation of the bush. The plant thrives along streams and in moist forests, preferring damp soil and partial sunlight.
I spent a summer in Alaska during my college years and was privileged to pick salmonberries on Kodiak Island as well as enjoy them in a delicious salmonberry pie. I was told by those living on the Island that salmonberries resemble salmon eggs and that is why they were called salmonberries.
Salmonberry flowers are bright pink to dark red in color and appear singly or in clusters of two to four. The berries resemble the common garden red raspberry but lack the sharp flavor of the red raspberry. Salmonberries are enjoyed by various birds including song birds, pheasants and grouse, as well as hummingbirds. The thick salmonberry shrub also provides good erosion control.
Even in the early 1800’s, explorers Lewis and Clark collected a salmonberry specimen and wrote specifically about it in their journal.
Salmonberries are incredibly rich in vitamin C, more so than almost any other berries. This gives them a slightly tart and sometimes dry flavor, like rose hips. They also have a large number of antioxidants, are low in calories and fat. As with other berries, they contain health amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin B1-B6, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus, Manganese, Copper and Sodium.
So, if you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, be sure to enjoy salmonberries when they are in season. They are delicious in pies and cobblers!