Salmonberry rich in color, taste

The bright pink blooms of the salmonberry shrub are a show-stopper but it’s the berries that have remained an edible favorite — no matter that they’ve been described as mushy.

The yellow or reddish salmonberries are among the earliest berries to ripen along the Pacific Northwest coast, which they do from May through June. As for their flavor, there’s wide disagreement. Some say they are “insipid,” others “one of the best.”

Whatever the case, the juicy berries are eaten by Pacific Northwest coastal native people, who also consume the sweet sprouts raw or steamed.

Salmonberry, which can form dense thickets, has bark that is golden-brown and shreds, as well as dark-green leaves in clusters of threes.

The shrub also is associated with the Swainson’s thrush, which also is referred to as the “salmonberry bird.” That’s because it shows up as the berries ripen.

Sources: Holly Roger, naturalist at Tennant Lake Interpretive Center; “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast,” by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon; National Wildlife Federation’s eNature.comReach