Salmonberries are a raspberry shaped fruit ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange found across much of the Pacific Northwest. The berries can be slightly bitter to sweet, depending upon maturity, and are often snacked upon by passing hikers. Salmonberries are usually not found for sale unless at small farm stands and markets, although they make passable jam and preserves if enough can be collected. Salmonberries are sometimes confused with cloudberries, another close relative, although salmonberries grow on a bush, while cloudberries tend to hug the ground.
Salmonberries grow on bushes of up to six feet (two meters) tall with broad, fuzzy leaves and thorns. Depending on the maturity of the bush, the thorns can be soft and yielding or firmer, posing a threat to clothing and unprotected body parts. Salmonberries have small pink flowers that mature into fruits between June and August, depending on the latitude and elevation of the bush. The plant thrives along streams and in moist forests, preferring damp soil and partial sunlight.
Most salmonberries come in the orange variety, which can be quite tasty. The darker reddish salmonberry tends not to be as flavorful and is generally avoided by all but the extremely hungry. When harvesting wild salmonberries, it is recommended to taste several fruits from the bush before collecting a large amount, as the berries are sometimes very bland in flavor.
Salmonberries are incredibly rich in vitamin C, more so than almost any other berry. This gives them a slightly tart and sometimes dry flavor, like rose hips. They also have a large number of antioxidants. Their healthy nature somewhat outweighs the sometimes disappointing flavor, especially when salmonberries are served with a variety of other vine fruits, like raspberries and blackberries. Salmonberries can lend an acidic note to an otherwise too sweet berry pie, for example.
Although salmonberries are not popularly cultivated, in some areas of the United States, there are commercial salmonberry farms. As a result, the fruit may become more readily available to consumers in the summer months. When looking for salmonberries, try to get them as fresh as possible. If the grocery store will allow you to do so, taste them first to ensure that you are getting a well flavored batch.
Look for berries that are not bruised, discolored, or wet. If the salmonberry is of the yellow/orange variety, the darker the color, the better it will taste. In general, the redder berries should be avoided. Always wash commercially farmed berries before consumption.