Foraging for Berries!
I’ve learned a lot of awesome information within the last few months as a Forest Service Employee. Such as, federally threatened species found in the Siuslaw National Forest, how to properly engage with visitors and effectively convey messages to them, the dynamics of the Oregon dunes and old growth forest, and so much more. There is one skill that still takes me some time to fully grasp and that’s plant identification. I never fully immersed myself in that skill, and I find it quite challenging. Birds are more up to my alley (I mean, I am in a bird internship). Nonetheless, I strive to become more familiarized with flora found here in the lovely state of Oregon. Thus far, I’ve become more acquainted with a few plants and trees. Within that, edible plants are something I truly want to properly identify. It’s very exciting to spot a plant, realize they’re perfectly safe for consumption, and eat them. I know a few, such as Salmonberry, Oregon Oxalis (in small quantities), thimbleberry, etc. Some are easier to spot then others. Thankfully, there’s one that’s easy to spot and identify. So what better way to appreciate the edible plant than by going berry picking :D.
I was invited to go thimbleberry picking by two of the SCA interns, Emily and Buch. They previously worked at Sweet Creeks Fall (a popular hiking destination with beautiful scenery that houses 11 waterfalls and a few hiking trails) and informed me that they spotted blooming thimbleberry shrubs along the road. We packed some water, got some containers, hopped into Emily’s car, and drove off to Sweet Creek Falls. Buch is an extremely knowledgeable individual when it comes to the outdoors, and they lead us in our search of the delectable berries (seriously, the day would have been more challenging without their awesome leadership). After working as a forest service employee and constantly spotting the plant, we developed a keen eye for thimbleberries. They grow on shrubs with woody, thornless stems that are about 2-3 feet tall with large hand shaped leaves that somewhat resemble maple leaves. The berries are easily spotted once ripe (they turn a bright red color). The berries resemble a thimble from the top and are very fragile, so they might fall apart as you pick them which stains red. Seriously, heed my warning. Our fingers where red when we failed to gently pick the berries.
Our day of berry picking was great! Buch and Emily were pros. They seemed to spot shrubs instantly and picked a lot of berries in the beginning. I was a tad bit slow at first, but got better as the day progressed. It was fun hanging with the two homies and picking delicious berries with them. Working together and getting lost in our foraging efforts made the day go quick. Buch even spotted some garter snakes here and there, much to Emily’s dismay (I repeatedly rushed to Buch’s location every time they called out snake in the hopes of spotting one). After collecting a respectable amount, we headed back home to enjoy the berries. Emily and I gave Buch our berries so they could make jam (remember when I said Buch is awesome. They are!). As I write this blog, I can’t help but look forward to the delicious jam. What better way to enjoy the fruits of our labor (pun intended) than by eating jam. Definitely an awesome way to enjoy our day off work!