The season is upon us where the days are long, the air is warm, and many wild berries are becoming ready to pick. The North Shore offers a variety of delicious natural foods, right here in Duluth and beyond.
This blog will be a beginners guide to finding, sustainably harvesting, and enjoying your fresh picks.
Today I'm highlighting three main types of berries you can find on The North Shore; wild raspberries, thimbleberries, and wild blueberries. All being equally delicious and plentiful in the region.
Before I jump into how to identify and locate these plants, it is important to discuss how to sustainably harvest these berries so there are many to enjoy in the future as well. When you are harvesting, only take what you need. Leave some fruit on the plants. Be careful to just pick the fruit and not any other part of the plant such as the stems, leaves, or roots. Only pick fruit you can confidently identify. And lastly, like always, leave no trace. This means leaving a place better than you found it and making sure to remain on marked trails to preserve the forest.
Types of Berries
Now that you are ready to hit the trail, you will need to know what to look for.
All three types of berries are ready to pick from July through Mid-August.
- A ripe Thimbleberry looks like a small, dark-red golf ball, about the size of your thumb. The plant has big sprawling leaves with 5 points, and are most often found in partly shady areas.
- A ripe raspberry looks very similar, but smaller in size and their plant has small leaves with jagged edges, they look very similar to a “backyard’ raspberry bush. Where thimbleberries grow, you are most likely to find wild raspberries close by, or vice versa.
- Wild Blueberry shrubs are 1 to 2½ feet tall and often grow in groups. The plants may be in open woodlands or on hilltops and rocky ridges. The leaves are shaped like an elongated football. Underripe berries are green, becoming pinkish before ripening to deep blue; ripe berries look just like supermarket blueberries but are smaller.
Items You'll Need
While you are out foraging for berries, there are a few items to bring with you to make transporting your fruit much easier.
1.The biggest being a good container. All of the fruits are fragile. They will not survive in a plastic bag stuffed into the day bag. Instead opt for a hard sided container such as an old Tupperware, jar, or ice cream pail.
2. Be sure to wear good footwear for your adventure.
Hiking boots are the best option as you may need to walk on uneven trails, rocks, and hillsides.
3. And lastly, bug spray!
I have spent many afternoons deep in the forest looking for berries and gotten eaten alive by mosquitos and flies. Of course the berries will still be delicious without it, but the experience will be much better if you don't have to swat away bugs at every moment.
Now Where to Look
Right in Duluth there are many places you can find all three types of berries. Some of the best options for urban foraging are at Lester Park, Ely’s Peak (a wild blueberries dream!), and Hawk’s Ridge.
Many of the rivers and streams in the areas also boast an impressive amount of berry plants along their trails and banks. If you are traveling up the North Shore, most (if not all) sections of the Superior Hiking Trail will have a variety of berries.
Take your time while hiking, explore the forest floor and undergrowth and you will be rewarded. Like any wild crop, there may be regions that are plentiful one year but not the next. Be patient with the environment and yourself if you are having difficulty finding some. Good things come to those who wait.
P.S. Google search a few of these other North Shore berries for even
more foraging fun:
- Dew Berries
About the Writer:
Ruby Dammann has been with North and Shore since the Makers Mercantile mobile camper days. She also is the maker behind Little Leaf Goods jewelry. Ruby grew up in St.Paul and moved up to Duluth for school (go bulldogs), fell in love with Lake Superior, and just hasn't been able to leave since. When she isn't in the store or making earrings she loves to get outside and go camping with her wife Marcy and dog Onni. You can find her and her jewelry on facebook and instagram at @little.leaf.goods.