Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Berry Success!

 From the start of summer, I am constantly berry scouting. A hike here, a bike ride there...I am always looking to the brush alongside the trails for any promising berry picking locations come August.  And this *place*...well, everywhere I turned, a berry bush/plant was smiling at me. The Mister had a day off yesterday, so we headed north to this *place* for a second visit to check out berry prospects.

The two hour drive was well worth the fuel and time. We haven't even reached the trailhead yet and our 2 liter container was already a tenth full.

This was one of the bushes THIN with blues. These are what they call Early Blueberries or Blue Huckleberries. We would find a bush (away from the Devil's Club and its wicked thorns), just step off the trail, and find a bonanza of blues fat and plump for the taking. 

 This was a nice surprise.  Watermelon Berries! I've mentioned in earlier posts that these are scattered around, and that harvesting enough to make anything out of them is almost impossible.  Usually, pickers will grab these for a quick snack and go on their merry way.  Not *here*!!! This is Sophia's and the Mister's absolute favorite berries!!! There came a point that I had to race the girl and pick them first before she got her hungry little hands on them...they went STRAIGHT down her gullet once she grabbed hold of them! The watermelon berry harvest yielded about three cups worth (an insane amount) not counting the loads that Sophie beat me to.

A way to identify this plant? It is called Twisted Stalk because the leaves sprout from the stem in a twisting roundabout fashion. Their veins run lengthwise, and the berries drop from underneath the leaves.  I've taught the girls that these are the berries that look like dangling red earrings. (There are a couple poisonous plants they can be confused with, as their leaves are similar, but these are the only ones in which the berries dangle this way.)

 Here's Dylan picking right from the trail. He's my berry picking buddy, especially when it comes to picking blues as they are his favorite. 

He is also the reason why I haven't identified the exact location of this *place*.  As I was taking pictures mid-pick, he angrily said,"Don't you post this on Facebook or on your blog so everyone can trample in here and take everything!" Hmmmm, sounds very ALASKAN to me.  Locals here are VERY protective of their "spots" whether it be berry picking, hunting, or fishing. It seems Mister D is as well. And so I promised I wouldn't, leaving the folks we went up here with the first time around as the only ones in the possession of such valuable knowledge. *wink*

Note the pretty shiny red ones? Those are red currants! I wasn't expecting them there, but the translucent  rubies were too tempting not to pick. I didn't get enough to make anything substantial with it, though.

Two liters, two hours, and probably not more than a tenth of a mile into the trail, and our containers were full! I can't imagine what the rest of that trail holds!!!

After picking out leaves/stems/bugs and squished berries, they were sorted, washed, and dried.

We had enough blueberries to set aside some for snacking and the rest to freeze for baking/cooking/making preserves!
(To freeze, just lay them out in a single layer on a large baking sheet (dry) and stick them in the freezer. An hour or so later, pour them in a heavy duty freezer bag.)

 I got maybe about half a cup of these currants. They went to the freezer, awaiting more so I can make a  jelly out of them.

These watermelon berries are in the fridge for snacking and a smoothie or two.

It is definitely berry season!!! 

This Saturday and Sunday is the annual Alyeska Resort Blueberry Festival from 12noon-6pm. Parking is free, entrance is free, but there are plenty of vendors selling blueberry themed goodies to spend your money on.  (My suggestion...buy some snacks there...but leave the meal for up the road at Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ in Indian.) They turn on Chair 7 (again, free) so you can ride up the mountain to some prime blueberry spots. There is a live band and beer garden. Also, there are children's activities like decorate your own berry baskets, etc.

For those of you friends who are coming with or meeting us there, be ready for a good time! Bring rain gear (it's called a rainforest for a reason), bug repellent, water, snacks, and berry containers (anything will do...I use a pitcher and the kids get the little $1 buckets you find at Target). Rain boots are great, as the ground is usually wet there...but also make sure they're in comfortable footwear if you want to hike.

  It's a good idea to explain to the kiddos beforehand that it is NOT OKAY to pick and eat (dangers of berry poisoning) unless mom and/or dad has identified the plant/berry. An easy way around this is to restrict their snacking to just the parent's bucket stash and not their own. 

Also, Fam Och will be doing the hand tram across Winner Creek Gorge again that day (just down the trail a bit), and you are all welcome to accompany us...(everyone should do this at least once).

Anyway, there is much much berry picking to do until fall comes around the corner...and it is just right there...whether you come with us or find your own secret stash, happy pickings to you all!

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