This blog was written in partnership with North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NĀTIFS) by one of their team members.
Hot temperatures, bright sun, and sweet treats found in the underbrush: summer means berry season for many of us across North America! Berries have been grown and harvested for thousands of years, playing a large part in cultural and familial stories. These berries thrive in a variety of landscapes and offer good nutrition, powerful medicine, and heart-centered life lessons.
It’s a great time to go out and search for these wonderful and healthful snacks, but remember, never take more than you know you need. Leave plenty of berries for other foragers, human and animal alike!
Wild strawberries, or Ode’imin in Ojibwe and Wažúšteča in Dakhóta, resemble a human heart and are often associated with heart benefits and medicine. A member of the rose family, strawberries are often the first to ripen in the spring. They can be found low to the ground, and as perennials, can return every year to the same location. Their tri-leaflet leaves and white flowers are easy to identify, making them great foragables. Strawberries are great for soothing irritation in the stomach and for oral health. They are rich in Vitamin C and other minerals, which makes them wonderful for supporting the health of blood vessels. Harvesting the leaves in the late spring to the summer season and drying them for tea will also provide the same healing benefits.
Known first as Házatho (Dakhóta) and Miinan (Ojibwe), wild blueberries are cousins to the cultivated varieties of blueberries you see in the grocery stores. They tend to be smaller and vary more in color when they grow wild. Unlike their domesticated cousins, these berries grow in low-to-the-ground bushes, often making hand harvest one of the best methods. But the effort is worth it! Wild blueberries are packed with antioxidants. Blueberries are also high in vitamins that support eye health and can improve the side effects of glaucoma, cataracts and can also improve night vision. Wild blueberries like well-drained, rocky soil and while they ripen in July, some of the best times to go picking are at the end of July to August.
Another member of the rose family, wild raspberry, or Miskomin in Ojibwe and Thakháŋheča in Dakhóta, is a berry that comes with an added precaution when picking. Raspberries grow in brambles, or in patches of thorny canes. The leaves are soft and silvery, and can be dried to serve as tea. Raspberries are high in minerals that help repair upset tummies and broken blood vessels. They help strengthen the tissue around the heart and carry good nutrition throughout the body. Raspberries thrive in disturbed land with good light, which is why they are often found beside trails and pathways. They aren’t picky about their soil and ripen from late June to early August. They can be found in many colors, as many black raspberry fans are well aware!
These are just a few of the many seasonal berries ripening all around us right now. It may be time to adventure into your nearby parks, forests, and even in your own backyard to get a taste of the summer sweetness.
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