by Greg Lincoln
It is Salmonberry Season, and berry pickers all over the YK delta are getting ready to harvest the bounty of the tundra. Some folks have already started picking this most beloved berry.
Salmonberries, or cloud berries are part of the rose family and are native to the cool regions of the arctic tundra, alpine, and boreal forests. That means us.
Each berry consists of drupelets. Each drupelet contains a seed. Sometimes we’ll see berries with only one, which still gets picked if it is ripe. Berries start out bright red, and when they ripen they turn orange, then later on they lose their color turning pale.
Can you believe that cloudberries grow naturally throughout the northern hemisphere and not just in Alaska? In Europe they grow in Nordic countries, the Baltic states, and also in Poland. They grow in northern Russia, Greenland, in Canada, northern Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York.
These berries are a very important traditional food for the Yup’ik people. Each place has their own unique way of using salmonberries and here in our area they are a favorite ingredient in akutaq, our most divine dessert.
Salmonberries are rich in Vitamin C and also contain Vitamin A.
I hope that you will have the opportunity to pick as many berries as you can this summer. It is a way to connect back to our land and has many healing properties for those that are suffering from prolonged grief and sadness due to loss or other complications.
To conclude, here is a recipe from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service on how to make jam with salmonberries and rhubarb. You might want to double it.
Cloudberry Rhubarb Jam
1 cup cloudberries, crushed (you may want to remove some of the seeds)
2 cups rhubarb, diced
3 cups sugar
Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars and prepare lids. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. When sugar is dissolved, increase heat and cook rapidly to gelling point, 220˚F. As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Pour jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: 3 cups