June means salmonberries here in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past week or so my kids and I have been eating every berry we can get our hot little hands on. They grow wild here, along roadsides and in forests. They seem to prefer a little bit of shade and lots of water, so the very best place to find them is alongside the creeks that wind their way through my suburban neighbourhood, carrying water down from the mountains and on to the river and, eventually, the sea.
Berries are my favourite food to forage for. They’re tasty and beautiful, like hidden gems that are there for the picking, if only you know where to look. Few things make me as excited as finding a good picking spot, where there are plenty of ripe berries just waiting for me. My time picking wild berries has taught me many things. Each berry carries its own lessons. The lessons of blackberries are hard-won, because of their prickly barbs that can ensnare you if you’re not careful. The lessons of salmonberries are different, but they are no less valuable. Today I’m thinking about those lessons.
A ripe yellow berry
What I’ve Learned from Salmonberries
- Not every yellow berry is unripe – and not every yellow berry is ripe. To really enjoy the food you’re picking you need to learn what you’re looking for.
- If you eat nothing but berries for 48 hours – as I did at summer camp once as a 12-year-old – you may learn to regret the extreme overindulgence.
- Wild berries taste best when eaten in wild places. If you pick them and bring them home, they will be missing something.
- Some of us do best out of the hot sun.
- Not everyone enjoys every kind of berry (as the salmonberry’s detractors can attest to), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t appreciate their charms.
- No berry tastes better than the one your child picks just for you.
- Not every reward needs to be hard-fought, battling heat and thorns.
- Some things are timeless, like these berries that people have been eating in this place since there have been people in this place.
What lessons have you learned while out picking berries?