Many of us spend the summer months collecting berries to make jam and other preserves. Well due to the 24 hours of Sunlight in the Northern summers, the berry picking season lasts all the way through the fall and sometimes through the winter!
Although vegetation is scarce in the Arctic Tundra of Canada’s North, most (but not all) foliage that you find is edible! Traditionally while the Men of the tribe were out hunting, the women and children would be gathering berries for food, and plants for medicinal purposes…. Read on to discover some of these edible berries and plants that we have been gathering for generations.
HERE ARE 5 EDIBLE BERRIES YOU’LL COMMONLY FIND IN THE NORTH WEST TERRITORIES!
1) ARCTIC CRANBERRIES
These delicious bright red berries grow in damp bogs and swampy areas in the wild or can be cultivated on fields in certain areas of Canada’s Arctic. This tart, sour berry can be found on the low growing shrub on the Arctic tundra floor all year round! They make for the perfect snack while your walking about exploring the Dempster Highway or it can be prepared/preserved in several different ways for later consumption!
- berry can be dried for storage and reconstituted in boiling water.
- berry can be boiled and mixed with grease/oil for storage.
- berry has improved flavour when cooked or after freezing.
Historically, cranberry fruits and leaves were used for a variety of problems, such as wounds, urinary disorders, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments and liver problems.
Gooseberries look very much like furry grapes. They may be slightly round of dewdrop-shaped and range in color from deep green, yellow and purple-red.
Unripe gooseberries are pretty sour and they withstand cooking well which is why they are usually added to tarts, pies and other similar recipes today. (natureword.com)
Traditionally they were prepared in several ways to maintain their vitamin content and preserved for later consumption. Some of these methods include:
- berries were dried for storage.
- berries were cooked and then spread to dry into cakes.
- berries contains high levels of pectin, which benefited in making jams and preserves.
***warning: eating gooseberries in large quantities may cause stomach upset!
Soapberries grow in a shrub that can survive harsh climates and pretty much any kind of soil. The shrub itself is about 3 to 6 feet high with loose branches. The berries themselves are a red/orange color when ripe and tastes quite bitter.
Not only are they eaten in dishes as they contain high vitamin C but they have also been used by the inuvialuit people to treat high blood pressure, digestive disorders, acne and bringing on childbirth to name a few. However, as the native soapberries or buffaloberries also contain saponin, they must be consumed in moderation as they can upset your stomach.
One way in which they are prepared today is by making ice cream! Alaskan first nations call it akutaq or agutak. It is basically soapberries or salmonberries mixed with fat. Yes you read that right. Berries and fat!! (traditionalnativehealing)
The Arctic Cloud Berry is an amber berry that is often compared to raspberries but is larger and has a taste more like apples.
While it’s not often enjoyed raw, it’s know for it’s antiscorbutic properties by the Inuit people, as was used for this purpose by Vikings, because it contains more than twice the vitamin C of oranges. Called the “baked apple berry,” it can often be found in jams and pies.
The plant has been used in traditional medicine to ease hard labor as well as menstrual difficulties! (futurederm.com)
It’s namesake; these are bears favourite berries!
This trailing dwarf shrub has long flexible sprawling branches. It forms a green mat sometimes several metres wide over its preferred dry sandy habitat. The leafy stems are covered with soft, white hairs. With its evergreen leaves and bright red berries, it brightens up winter woodlands and meadows.
Because the berries remain on the branches all year and are rich in carbohydrates, they are an important survival food.
Bearberry has some medicinal properties, for example, as a diuretic. A tea made from the roots can be drunk to treat a persistent cough. This plant is rich in tannin and arbutin and should be used with caution!!! (plantwatch.com)
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