Who’s Your Huckleberry?

Wild berries make wonderful jams and pies; they are abundant and free for the picking if you know where to look. // Photography courtesy of Thinkstock
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Ripe berries

The West Michigan shoreline has a history of being the Fruit Belt of the Great Lakes. But did you know there is a bounty of wild fruits that can be foraged in fields and along the trails that will delight your taste buds?

Many people have stumbled upon wild versions of the strawberry, blueberry and raspberry while playing in the summer sunshine, but here are a few others that can be added to your foraging harvest basket!

Mulberries: Mulberry trees are common along trails and grow feral in cities and parks. They yield a dark, jammy berry that most likely you’ve seen smushed on the sidewalk. The mulberry can be mixed with strawberries for a delicious mixed-berry pie or mashed into an iced mulberry slushie with maple syrup and a foraged peppermint garnish.

The mulberry can be mixed with strawberries for a delicious mixed-berry pie or mashed into an iced mulberry slushie.

Gooseberries
Gooseberries

Gooseberries: Gooseberries (or currants) grow wildly in midsummer, singly or in clusters, and range in color from a translucent gold to bright red and dark black. They are readily found across Michigan, usually along walking trails in the dappled shade. Gooseberries can be transformed into mixed berry fruit tarts, pate de fruits and the classic French clafoutis. Use the wild, black gooseberries to create a foraged crème de cassis for the cocktail cart.

Huckleberries: The huckleberry harvest peaks in August along the northern Michigan shoreline toward Harbor Springs and further north. The berry will be blue to nearly black and can range in size from ¼-¾-inch in diameter, borne singly or in small clusters. This dark berry can be sought out in rocky outcrops, bogs and sunny open fields. Enjoy the huckleberry in a milkshake or in a huckleberry margarita (puréed berries, good tequila and on the rocks with salt).

Mulberries
Mulberries

Thimbleberries: The thimbleberry is similar in appearance to its cousins the raspberry and blackberry, and grows wild along trails of the northern Michigan landscape. The thimbleberry has white flowers in late spring that develop into soft red fruit that is up to ¾-inch across in late summer. The fruit grows in clusters and is seedy, tart and soft; it resembles a wide raspberry.

The thimbleberry makes delicious crumbles, pies and muffins; and the fruits make a delicious jam and fruit leather. A simple thimbleberry syrup can flavor mixed drinks, champagnes and refreshing homemade sodas.

When you do find these delightful berries, you not only will have a delicious snack, but you’ll have cracked the code to the secret Pure Michigan summers that few know about.

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