Sunday, May 31, 2009

Berry of the Month - May

In the summer, it is easy for me to track time based on which berry is available. I thought this would be a fun monthly blog feature - a berry of the month club, if you will.

I made it in just under the wire for May, but on Sunday I thankfully had time to head down to the creek behind our house and pick salmonberries.

Salmonberries are unique to the Pacific Northwest, though I understand they grow as far North as Alaska and as far East as Idaho. Not many people actually know about the berries, since they are not cultivated and are too fragile for transporting or freezing. You can find them growing along the road, especially in shaded, woodsy areas. They are not as prolific as blackberries though and the period they are ripe is just a couple of weeks.

My friend Maria came by Sunday afternoon and we lazed in the sun on my deck for awhile before we realized we needed to get up and move. We both had a case of the lazy Sundays. With basket in hand, we headed down to the creek.

There is something so satisfying about picking berries. We were both wrestling branches and risking a fall into the creek to reach the fattest, brightest berries.

Our efforts were well rewarded though. We managed to get about a cup and a half of berries in just 15 or 20 minutes. I love how the berries range in color from pale orange to hot pink.

The berries have a really mild flavor. They are best eaten right away, promptly upon plucking them from the bush in fact. They are named 'salmon' berries, since the shoots were eaten by Native Americans as a side dish alongside salmon. Perhaps the name also references the color as well or that they ripen near the time salmon are returning to streams in late Spring.

I decided to make a simple syrup with the berries, as I did last year. We were having fish tacos for dinner, so had our heart set on margaritas. By mixing up the salmonberry syrup with some triple sec, fresh lemon and lime juices and some tequila, they ended up being Salmonberry Margaritas. Olé!

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