Alaska Berry Picking
Berry picking brings out Alaskans in droves
Alaska berry picking is akin to beach combing. It is very addictive. If you’ve ever had a blueberry pie made with fresh blueberries than you know what I mean. Blueberries, Salmonberries, Raspberries and many other berries are all over Alaska. With nearly 50 types of berries in Alaska, most of which are edible, it is no wonder that the fruit has been a mainstay of the Alaska Native diet for centuries. Alaska berry picking brings out Alaskans in droves to their favorite spots. In Alaska there are plenty of berries to go around and you can go picking all you want. Remember, bears also love berries and they have the right-of-way. Sing, make noise or wear bear bells so they hear you coming!
Very Important !
I would advise anyone who’s never been berry picking in Alaska, to get a book with pictures of berries that include the leaves. Alaska has many similar berries that are poisonous. Leaf identification helps very much so. You’ll also want to avoid all white berries as every white berry in Alaska is poisonous.
Here’s a link to the National Park Service for Alaska maps.
Many Types of Alaska Berries:
The edibility of some depends upon the maturity of the plant. Highbush cranberries are tastier before maturity, while others, like northern red currant, are tastier afterward.
Crowberries and alpine bearberries are among the berries that look tasty all the time, but, in fact, never are — at least not off the plant. Keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t good to eat.
Crowberries, for instance, are good for pies and jellies, and bearberries can be mixed with other berries as an ‘extender’ in pies. This is worth noting because crowberries, which grow on a low, green, shrub-like plant, are often plentiful and untouched in the Anchorage area. They are also said to be best when picked after a good frost.
The Alaska berry picking season is anywhere from late August to late September. Very sweet in taste they are far superior to their cultivated cousins. Wild blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, niacin, manganese, carbohydrates, and dietary fibre. They also contain little sodium or fat. Generally higher elevation produce sweeter berries. Blueberries get very dark (near black) when they are ripe and about to fall. That is the best time to pick due to taste and sweetness.
Salmonberries ripen in early August. On moist, sunny slopes in Alaska, the Salmonberry plants can form impenetrable thickets. They are a close cousin of the raspberry. The juicy fruit, which looks like a yellow or orange blackberry, is a welcome trailside snack, though too bland for some tastes. Native Alaskans ate not only the berries but also the tender young shoots. Numerous birds and animals also feast on the fruits, which may be abundant in good years. The deep pink flowers are distinctive and may occur along with the fruits.
The Raspberry is a plant that produces a tart, sweet, red composite fruit in late summer or early autumn. The fruit is not a true berry but a cluster of drupelets around a central core. Very small, but very tasty. An Alaska Berry Picking favorite.
Crowberries are common in bogs and alpine meadows. Very bland raw, but sweetened in a pie, incredible! The crowberry is similar in appearance to a blueberry. It is a light green, mat forming shrub which grows in areas similar to that of the partridgeberry. The Inuit, of which these berries are a staple, call them, “Fruit of the North”. Their flowers, male, female, or both sexes are purple-crimson, inconspicuous, and appear May to June. The season usually begins in July and lasts until the first snow. They are almost completely devoid of natural acid and their sweet flavor generally peaks after frost. Crowberries are extremely high in vitamin C, approximately twice that of blueberries.
Just follow your nose to find Highbush Cranberries. But besides being tasty, highbush cranberries can be gathered until after the snow flies. They have a very distinctive smell. It’s the smell of fall, a musty fox smell.
Beware of Baneberries! Baneberries, similar in looks to highbush cranberries, can be found interspersed in a patch of waist-high, highbush cranberry foliage. But baneberries have some subtle but noticeable differences from the highbush cranberries. The baneberry’s seed is different from the highbush cranberry. It has a little, black crescent-shaped seed inside and a tiny, poppyseed-like black spot on the outside.
Lingonberries ripen in August and are red, tart and smaller than cranberries but with a finer flavor. The jewel-like, ruby-red lingonberries with small, shiny oval-shaped green leaves are much smaller than commercial cranberries. They are found on slender stalks, sometimes in clusters, low to the ground in woods, thickets, mountain slopes and tundra. Lingonberries are an extremely versatile and valuable food source and also have a high level of antioxidants.
Alaska Berry Picking Near Anchorage
Berry Picking Flattop Mountain Trail
Seward Highway south to Huffman exit, turn left. Follow signs from Upper Huffman Road to Glen Alps Road. Blueberry Hill is just above the parking lot. For more blueberries follow Powerline Pass Trail into the South Fork of Campbell Creek.
Berry Picking Mount Alyeska
Seward Highway south to Alyeska Highway. At the end of the highway, Take a right at the “T” to park at the Alyeska Day Lodge and hike up the mountain, or make a left to the Alyeska Resort and Tramway for a ride to the mountain top. Fill a basket or two on the walk down the mountain.
Rendezvous Peak Trail
Glenn Highway north to Arctic Valley exit. End of Arctic Valley Road, adjacent to Alpenglow Ski Area. Find a gorgeous mountain bowl drenched with blueberries, mossberries, crowberries and cranberries.
South Fork Valley Trail
Glenn Highway north to Hiland Road exit, turn right. From Mile 7.5 of Hiland, follow the signs for half a mile to the trailhead. To find low-bush blueberries, must be in the open valley, out of the spruce. Easily an all-day hike with plenty of berry patches.
Peters Creek Trail
Glenn Highway north to Peters Creek exit, turn right; turn right at Ski Road, right on Whaley (becomes Chugach Park Road), left at Kullberg and then right on Malcolm Drive. Hike several miles in from the trailhead to find berry patches on the slopes of Mt. Eklutna and Bear Mountain. Limited parking.
Berry Picking the Eklutna Lakeside Trail
Glenn Highway north to Eklutna Lake Road, 10 miles to recreation area. Travel 5 miles by foot or mountain bike along Eklutna Lakeside Trail to Bold Ridge Overlook Trail. Hike 1.5 miles up the base for a bowl full of berries.
Alaska Berry Picking by AlaskaTrekker.com