Living in the country, we had access to a treasure trove of berries before berries became nutritional giants. Today the slogan anti-inflammatory is paraded everywhere. Then we’d never heard of the word. We just knew that blackberries were berry, berry good.
We had solid walls of Himalayan blackberries lining Crooked Creek and evergreen blackberries elsewhere through the wooded ravines. In the heart of the summer season, you could wade down the creek and pick berries to your heart’s delight. We’d wade through a gantlet of berry goodness. Sometimes we’d even grab ladders and lay them out into the patch so we’d have access to the berries that had been just out of reach and seemed because of that the plumpest and juiciest.
A few berries even made it into the bucket. We’d take the berries home, where Mom would turn the kitchen into a workshop for making pies, cobblers and jam. No matter how hot it was outside, Mom would go about her business without complaint helping us get ready for the long winter.
More berries grew in abundance in the thick woods that shaded the surrounding mountains. We had pink huckleberries that grew out of the top of old stumps, cut off six to eight feet high years ago by loggers with crosscut saws. You’d burn up more calories picking and eating these berries than you ever would gain from the consumption.
There were also gooseberries, black currants, salmonberries, elderberries and much more.
One of our most popular berries that was least heard of was the salal. First Nations people of British Columbia using cedar frames and skunk cabbage leaves would make salal cakes. Seas of salals grew under the forest canopy, and picking them our fingers would become stained a rich blue. They were a purple seedy berry with an earthy taste and made a tasty jam.
Mom would make homemade bread and somehow we all planned our schedules to be around home when the bread came out of the oven piping hot. We’d cut ourselves thick slives. We’d pile on the butter and salal jam and have ourselves a treat. It was berry goodness at its best.