7 Wild Berries You Can Pick and Eat on Your Next Camping Trip
It may not be a necessity for survival anymore, but gathering our food as a recreational activity is picking up steam among us city folk. After all, is there anything more rewarding than heading to the great outdoors to find something healthy (and local) to eat? To make sure your foraging is as safe and legal as possible, we turned to Kevin Smith, the blogger behind Countryman: Foraging California’s Wild Side. He led us on our first foraging experience at Little River Inn in Mendocino, California, to share which berries are okay to pick and eat. (Photo via Getty Images)
Before you start plucking berries off their stems, remember to always ask for permission from the landowner first. Never assume you can just pick from anywhere, because no one is watching. Potential fines (up to $10,000) and jail time (up to six months) are not worth it for a pint of wild blackberries, right? Knock on doors or call the offices of public forests or the Bureau of Land Management. Sometimes you may need a government issued permit, a sort of hunting license for berries. The offices for public forests may even provide details like which berries you can pick and how many pints you're allotted per day. (Photo via Getty Images)
Until you become confident in IDing edible wild berries, turn to an expert forager and/or a written guide like the Pacific Coast Berry Finder to double-check your work. Never risk your life for an unknown berry. And when you do start noshing, start with a few to make sure you don't end up with tummy troubles. One last thing to consider: chemical sprays. Smith advises against picking anywhere that is known to be sprayed with herbicides — roadsides and power line cuts through the woods are two areas you always want to avoid. To find out what to look for when you're foraging, keep clicking. (Photo via Getty Images)
California Blackberry: Native to California and found up and down the coast (as well as in some inland forested areas), this blackberry is much, much smaller than those you may find in grocery stores (It's about the size of a blueberry). Edible, wild blackberries are distinguishable by their furry leaves and thorny vines. It has a tart but juicy flavor. You can memorize this rhyme to be able to spot them: "If it's thorny or hairy, it's a berry." As you are picking blackberries, be careful not to touch poison oak, which loves to grow near blackberry vines and can cause a painful, itchy skin rash. You can distinguish poison oak by its oily, slick-looking leaves that are grouped in three. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
Huckleberries: These wild berries look similar to blueberries and are found in the Pacific Northwest (along the coast), the Rocky Mountain region, and on the eastern side of the States. The leaves look serrated and pointed, and the rounded berries start out red and turn black when mature. According to Smith, there are ample huckleberries in the woods in California — so much that bears and other creatures can't eat enough of it before the fruit rots. He jokes, "It's our job" to harvest them, so they doesn't go to waste. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
California Gooseberry: Prevalent along the California coast, this species of gooseberry is a cousin to the currant. Though the berries are prickly, once crushed and boiled with sugar, they make a tasty jam. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
Salal Berries: One of the most abundant berries in the Pacific Northwest, the salal shrub grows pink, bell-shaped flowers that morph into berries resembling leathery blueberries with star-shaped ends. The fruit has a fruit-punch-like flavor with a slight bitterness from the antioxidant-rich skins. Though they taste incredible snacked on solo, salal berries can be stirred into pancake or muffin batter too. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
Blue Elder: Found in almost every state west of Texas and as far north as Canada, the blue elder tree produces blueberry-looking fruit that when mature looks frosted (see the picture). Smith advises to always cook blue elderberries down into a syrup or jam; don't consume them raw. (Photo via Getty Images)
Thimble Berry: Seen in the West and Mid-west and grown in moist areas with partial sun, these raspberry-looking berries have a red skin, tart taste, and seedy texture. They are extremely fragile (they don't keep well and mold overnight) and must be eaten on the spot or simmered into a syrup. If you are on the hunt for TP while you're camping, the soft leaves of these berries are like the Charmin Ultra of nature, Smith tells us. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
Salmonberries: Grown in the Pacific Northwest as far as Alaska, salmonberries can be found near streams (the plant likes damp environments). The raspberry-like fruit receives its name because the yellow berries look like salmon roe. When mature, the mouth-puckering, seedy fruit turns orange. (Photo via Anna Monette Roberts / Brit + Co)
Check Brit + Co out on Pinterest for more camping inspo.
As Brit + Co's Food Editor, Anna Monette Roberts has an insatiable appetite for developing tasty dishes. When she's not dreaming about her next meal, she's . . . well, probably cooking up her creations. Her favorite foods include chewy chocolate chip cookies, Rosé Champagne, and gooey French cheeses — in no particular order.