A Taste of Wild Alaska
by Vivian Wagner
One July a few years ago, my husband and I sailed and hiked with friends around Kodiak Island, and everywhere we looked we saw them: bright red and orange salmonberries, hanging from bushes, just waiting to be plucked and eaten. It was the first time I’d ever had these berries, and I fell in love with them. We picked handfuls, eating as many as we could right where they grew, and carrying overflowing containers back to the boat.
Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) are members of the rose family, and they’re related to raspberries, cloudberries, and other brambles. In Alaska they grow predominantly in damp coastal areas in the southeast, southcentral, and southwest regions.
Prized as food by indigenous peoples, salmonberries can be eaten raw or used for pies, tarts, pancakes, jam, or syrup. They’re also high in antioxidants and vitamins A and C. The best time to harvest them is mid to late summer, depending on location, elevation, rainfall, and other factors. They’re fragile berries, so they’re best eaten or used fresh from the vine, though they will keep for a short time in the refrigerator after picking.
We enjoyed salmonberry spritzers on the boat as a fresh, thirst-quenching drink after a long day of exploring, and I found the sweet-tart berries paired well with lime juice, seltzer water, and simple syrup.
If you’re fortunate enough to come across a patch of salmonberries, enjoy their abundance, and also make sure to watch out for bears, who are known to devour them. Salmonberry picking is one of the joys of an Alaskan summer—and you’re sure to be hooked after that first taste.
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 cups seltzer water or club soda
¼ cup simple syrup (recipe below), or to taste
½ cup fresh salmonberries
Two fresh lime slices (optional)
Stir together ¼ cup white sugar with ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a pitcher, stir together the lime juice, seltzer water or club soda, and simple syrup. Taste and adjust sweetness as desired. Pour into two glasses filled with ice, and add ¼ cup salmonberries to each glass. Garnish with lime slices.