Summertime brings a bounty of wild, edible berries for us to pick and enjoy throughout the year. Wild berries are far more delicious and nutritious than store-bought ones. Here are some tips for picking wild berries this summer!
When we first moved to Alaska years ago, I was really excited to pick wild blueberries in the summer. Alaska is famous for its tiny yet very flavorful blueberries.
We also learned that there are countless other wild berries here to pick including strawberries, raspberries, salmonberries, cranberries, rosehips, and many more.
Berry picking season is something we look forward to every year! Here are some tips for picking wild berries.
What are Wild Berries?
Wild berries are bountiful during the summer here in Alaska, and all over many other places too. Wild berries grow in the wild instead of on a farm.
Although you-pick farms are a lot of fun to visit, picking wild berries is an even better experience. Learning to gather what nature provides all on its own for free will amaze you.
Here are the most common wild berries for picking:
- Cranberries (high-bush and low-bush)
There are so many more! It’s amazing to find delicious, nutritious foods right out in the wild waiting for you!
Get a book written specifically for the are where you live and learn about the wild berries that you can pick in your area. Even better, take a local class where you can learn with others about the wild berries that grow where you live.
Where To Go Wild Berry Picking
This is an almost forbidden question here in Alaska! People don’t offer up the location of their favorite berry patches very easily!
If someone asked me, I wouldn’t even be able to give them specific directions. We drive over two hours through the wilderness on a dirt path that only four-wheelers can go on. There are twists and turns so it’s hard to describe to others!
And that’s just for blueberries! We have a favorite spot that a friend so kindly shared with us for low-bush cranberries. Wild strawberries and raspberries grow in the woods of our Army base. We even have wild berries growing on our own property that we pick, mostly rosehips.
They’re all over the place and once you start learning where they are, you’ll be amazed at the amount of fresh, wild food that surrounds you!
Wild berries are everywhere here so they’re not difficult to find! Here are a few ways to find the best berry picking places:
- Get a book-Find a book about wild berries that grow in your region. There should be a map showing the areas that each type of berry grows in.
- Contact your local cooperative extension office-This is a great place to get information on wild berries that grow in your area and where to look for them.
- Ask around-Although many people might not disclose where they pick or, like me, couldn’t really give you good directions even if they wanted to, it doesn’t hurt to ask! I asked around for years and that’s how I found many of the berries that we now regularly pick that I had never even heard of.
- Visit the farmer’s market-Often, vendors at local farmer’s markets will sell wild berries that they have picked. This is a good way to sample the berries and start up a conversation about them.
Avoid picking berries that are too close to roadways or busy areas. You can’t be sure they haven’t been sprayed or gotten dirty. Berries out in the wild are clean and healthy and untouched except for fellow interested critters.
When To Go Wild Berry Picking
This will vary from region to region. Here in the interior of Alaska, we are a bit behind the rest of the country.
We will start picking raspberries in July but blueberries not until late August. Rosehips and cranberries wait until after the first frost for the best flavor. Various other berries fall somewhere in between.
Researching the wild berries that grow in your area will help you learn when is the best time to pick them. Jot each berry down in you calendar in the month when it’s ready and you won’t forget year after year when it’s time to go picking.
Berry Picking Safety
As with all wild edibles, safety is extremely important! This is why you must research the wild berries in your region to know where and when they grow.
Be sure to get a list, including photos, of every poisonous wild berry that you might come across. Be sure that you know the specific berry you are going to pick so you don’t accidentally pick berries that you shouldn’t.
Since many wild berry picking locations are out in the wild, follow other safety precautions. Make sure someone knows when and where you are picking in case you don’t return on time.
Pack accordingly and bring extra water, food, and other safety tools in case you get stranded. Bring along a secondary means of communication if you won’t have mobile service.
Be aware of wild animals that may be searching for berries as well and use caution. It’s always best to have a buddy or, even better, a group and never be alone.
Being out in the wild is always an amazing experience but can be dangerous so always prioritize safety!
More Tips For Picking Wild Berries
Here are a few more tips for getting started with picking wild berries:
- Have a few food-grade buckets dedicated to wild berry picking. Then when the time comes each year, your buckets will be ready to go when you are.
- Invite friends to come along. The more hands to pick, the larger the yield for everyone!
- Try something new! Of course there are the standard berries that we all know and love but look into some of the berries that you may not have heard of before and give those a try too.
- Stores sell fancy berry picking scoops and other accessories. These might work for some but we have found that the only tool we need to pick berries is our hands!
- Don’t pick all of the berries in an area. Be sure to leave some behind for others, especially the animals that enjoy them.
- Leave no trace of your foraging efforts and clean up after yourself.
Storing Freshly Picked Berries
When you arrive back home from a long day of berry picking with buckets full of them, you don’t want them to go to waste so they must be taken care of right away.
If you don’t have time at the moment to tend to your berries, store them in the fridge in the meantime. But not for too long. If you are planning to make jam within a few days, keep the berries refrigerated until you are ready.
To freeze, simply spread out on a sheet pan in a single layer, freeze, and pour into a sealed container to go back into the freezer. You can read all about how to freeze berries in this post.
These tips for picking wild berries will get you started on your own adventure of gathering delicious and healthy food that nature provides. Have fun and be safe!