Sunday 13 May 2007

Fruits of the Forest: High Bush Cranberry

May 13, 2007

You won’t likely find this cranberry next to your turkey this fall! That is unless you take the time to collect the berries yourself and make a delicious jelly with them.

The High Bush cranberry is some what underrated compared to other sweet berries of the woods.

High Bush cranberry, Viburnum trilobum, is a shrub with a large natural range. It is found in river valleys and open moist woods from the aspen parkland and the southern boreal forest. It is found in abundance along the Souris River, the Turtle River, and Assiniboine just to name a few areas. This shrub will attain a height of up to 12 feet in moist fertile soils, typically they are closer to 6 feet. This assumes that they haven’t been browsed by the local moose. The leaves are opposite, simple with three long pointed lobes typically 3 to four inches long. The Latin name, trilobum means “three lobed”.

The flowers are typical of most of the Viburnum family, flat topped white clusters of small flowers with larger sterile flowers, around the outer edge of the cluster. These sterile flowers may make the flower clusters more attractive to pollinators. You will see these flowers most often in June or early July.

The clusters of flowers once pollinated produce bunches of bright orange to red fruit.

These berry like drupes have a fleshy outer layer and a single large seed. The raw fruit is bitterly tannic and acidic. These are quite refreshing if you have a taste for them but should not be eaten in large quantities as they may cause cramps and vomiting. It is a favorite of bears and birds alike. Take care when gathering them in the wild not to startle the former. The Cree are reported to use the stems leaves and roots for a variety of medicinal propose. These range from pain relief to sore throat treatment. The bark is still boiled as a tea to relive menstrual cramps.

My personal favorite use for this fruit is in flavorful jellies. They have a unique odor, described by many as, sock like, but the taste is very good. I have included an untested recipe that seems to have the necessary amount of sugar. If anyone has good recipes feel free to email it to me.

This may be the plant to fill the gap in your diet as well as your wooded landscape.

For more information on native trees and shrubs contact an ISA Certified Arborist.

High Bush Cranberry Jelly

4 cups high bush cranberries

6 cups water

Additional water (as needed)

7 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. margarine or butter

1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)

Bring the berries and water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Crush the

berries or put through a food mill. Strain the juice in a cheesecloth-lined

sieve. Add any additional water if need to bring the juice up to 5 cups.

Bring the juice and sugar up to a boil. Add the margarine, then the liquid

pectin. Bring back to a boil, stirring constantly boil hard for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Skim foam from surface and pour into sterile pint jars and

seal. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Yield: 8 cups

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