A Field Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador BerriesBy Newfoundland & Labrador
Picked throughout the year, and used in a variety of ways, they are more than just a sustainable part of our food culture, but an experience for people to enjoy and share together.
BlueberryThere are several types of blueberries that grow here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the most unique is probably the lowbush blueberry. These are more commonly found in sparse forest areas, peaty barrens and exposed rocky outcrops. The leaves on these plants are glossy green in the summer months, turning a variety of reds in the fall. The best time to get out and forage for these berries is late August to September. We recommend trying them in a classic favorite like blueberry duff or blueberry wine, they are also delicious just eaten fresh but are commonly frozen to provide sustenance throughout the winter.
StrawberryStrawberries are amongst the earliest berries to start ripening in Newfoundland and Labrador, with recommended harvesting beginning as early as mid-July. These beautiful red berries can be found along embankments, hillsides, sparse forest areas, and many other areas in the province – there just needs to be good drainage. We also have plenty of U-Pick operators here, which makes strawberry picking a little more convenient and easy!
RaspberryDelightfully sweet in flavor, the raspberry is a favorite for good reason. We recommend setting out in search of these berries anytime from late July to August. They taste great when eaten fresh, made into a jam or jelly, or used in any variety of baked goods. The options are endless!
Partridgeberry / LingonberryPartridgeberries are best picked after a frost, and can be found in well-drained barren and coastal headland areas. They tend to be tart and slightly sweet in flavor. While they’re delicious baked into a dessert or incorporated into a wine, they are also known to have many health benefits. The prime time to pick partridgeberries is during October or early November.
Bakeapple / Cloud Berry
Generally ready for harvest between mid-August and September, this golden-orange berry can be found in moist tundra and peat bog environments. The bakeapple has a bitter apricot or honey-like flavor and is most popularly used to make jams or compotes.
How We Harvest
Harvesting berries is a time consuming activity, but here, we don’t mind. We like to take in the sights, breathe the fresh air, and maybe snack a little along the way. Although berry picking has evolved over the years, many still go about it in a very traditional way. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we’re known for grabbing the nearest plastic container (whether it be an empty ice cream tub or a salt meat bucket), and filling it to the brim. Around here we refer to them as a "dipper". When on location, some choose to use a “berry picker” (a tool that combs through the bush to gather berries in a quick sweep). The downfall to this method is that you may end up sorting through a mess of leaves and stems to get down to just the berries themselves. Others will choose to simply pluck the berries directly from the bush.
Benefits of Berries
Not only are they delicious; berries also have a high nutritional content and tend to be rich in vitamins and antioxidants. The benefits don’t stop there though. We like to think that there’s an invisible string connecting where we live, the food we eat, and the culture of this place. We have a relationship with the food we consume, and we share that relationship with friends and family near and far. Often, an evening spent foraging can be turned into a bonding experience. Many people become aware of their “berry picking spot” by it being passed down through generations. It’s possible their parents or grandparents once scavenged the spot at one point as well, and it just stuck! However it’s come upon, getting out there and breathing in the fresh air is bound to cure “what ails ya”.
Making the Most of It
Berries are just one of the many aspects that make up our special food culture here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re known to get a little creative in the kitchen, so once the berries are sorted and cleaned, we roll up our sleeves and get to work. Almost any berry can be turned into a jam or compote, or baked into a good muffin or pie. Some even get used in the making of a good wine or coffee blend. There are plenty of options, and we’ve gone ahead and added some inspiration in recipe form below. Enjoy!
3 tsp. baking powder
½ cup margarine
1 egg yolk
¾ cup milk
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream together the margarine and sugar, add the egg yolk and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with milk to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla. Beat well. To prevent blueberries from settling to the bottom, dust the berries with flour before adding to cake batter. Add fresh blueberries and combine gently. Pour into greased 8 inch cake pan and bake at 375°F for 45 to 50 minutes.
Yield: 10 servings
Credit: Mrs. Ronald West, Ladle Cove for Taste of Newfoundland and Labrador Cookbook - 1981
1 2/3 cups (200 grams) partridgeberries, fresh or frozen
¾ cup (150 grams) plus 4 teaspoons granulated white sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring the partridgeberries, the ¾ cup sugar, and lemon zest and juice to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes or until a few berries have burst but most are still intact. Cool and refridgerate.
Whip the cream with the 4 teaspoons sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks.
Put equal amounts of the whipped cream into conical serving glasses, either with a spoon or (easier) a piping bag.
Create a shallow depression in the top of the cream and spoon on a layer of the stewed berries, distributing them equally among the glasses. Gently stir the juice and berries into the cream with a small knife or spoon. Let some of the berry mixture flow down between the cream and the glass.
Serve with a couple of your favorite biscuits!
Yield: 6 individual desserts
Credit: “Taking a Chance: The First 25 Years of Fishers’ Loft Inn” by John & Peggy Fisher and Roger Pickavance, 2022
If you have photos or video of your favourite berry picking spot, recipe or culinary creation, why not share them with us on social? Tag us @NewfoundlandLabrador on Instagram and use our official hashtag #ExploreNL.
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