Salmonberries & Pacific Northwest Cuisine: An Essay

Essays

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The Inconvenient, Illusory Salmonberry

Most of us in the Pacific Northwest don’t know what salmonberries are. Sadly, many of those who do know them either pass them off as inedible or don’t consider their flavor interesting enough to pick them. One will never see them in the markets. Consumer apathy toward them, coupled with their high perishability and low shelf life, make them unable to ever be packed and sold. The only way one will ever eat the salmonberry is through foraging and sharing.

Yes, salmonberries are an illusion. Their meaty size, comparable to the Himalayan blackberry, tricks us into believing that they will burst with juicy nectar. Instead, they possess a little, tender white pit in their center. When picked, often the pit falls out, leaving one with a hollow and sometimes flat berry. Popping it into the mouth produces different reactions. The flavor of the salmonberry, like its color, is varied. This is a result of the comprehensive cloning of which salmonberries are capable. When foraging for them, it is important to pick from many different bushes, as the clones may create a sweeter berry than the parent. Unfortunately, an inconsistent flavor is yet another point against the marketing possibilities of salmonberries.

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