The Five Spot: Berried Treasures

As of this writing, summer has yet to arrive on the Palouse. The wind blows and cracks its cheeks, the rain falls, and grey clouds scud against the horizon. Good news for the forests and rivers, but I must admit to craving sun and heat, and not a little confusion. I find myself thinking, “Oh, I love autumn! Wait a minute, it’s mid-summer . . .” as I wander the farmer’s market. For proof of the season, I posit the abundance of what for me is the pinnacle of summer eating: berries! Here are five ways to commune with summer, in its berry form:

1. Picking: Several local farms offer U-pick berries:

Dallas Sexton grows blueberries at Sexton’s Farm, 1181 Old River Rd, Harvard, 208-875-1205. He is open for U-pick Wednesday through Sunday, 7 am to 7 pm.

Slightly further afield you can find Shingle Mill Blueberry Farm, 5 miles north ofSandpoint, Idaho. They have a Facebook page and a website, for info on hours and pricing. Perhaps a good add-on to your trip up to The Festival at Sandpoint . . .

Blackberries abound. We have enjoyed picking them along the bike trail that runs through Juliaetta and Kendrick.

And did you know that the huckleberry is Idaho’s official state fruit? For good reason: abundant huckleberry picking spots can be found throughout North Idaho. The best picking is between late July and early August. For help with locations visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov or contact the Priest Lake Ranger District, (208) 443-2512; www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/priestlake.    (Do be aware: bears love huckleberries. So if you choose to head into bear country in your search for berries, learn and employ all bear-repelling tactics.)

2. Buying: A wide variety of berries can be found at any area farmer’s market, or in the produce section at the Co-op. If it’s your lucky day, you will also find them in cobbler form on Co-op’s the hot bar.

3. Growing: For the aspiring farmer in you, the UI extension website has resources for growing berries at home. Googling “growing organic berries” will bring up a plethora of websites, articles, and videos to help you get started planting and growing your own berry patch.

4. Healing:  Many common berries have medicinal properties.

Among those that grow in our area, raspberries and their leaves have been used for centuries to ease menstrual cramps and improve women’s reproductive health. They also have anticancer properties.

Blueberries, like raspberries, are high in antioxidants and thus helpful in detoxification and reducing inflammation. They also aid digestion and eye health, and improve circulation, including to the brain, which helps improve memory and concentration. And they are one of the few fruits native to North America.

Guo Qi Zi, also known as goji berries, lycium fruit, and Chinese Wolfberries, are a favorite in the Chinese materia medica. These little red gems have been used for millennia for their many healing properties, which includes enhancing vision, increasing energy level, boosting immune function, lowering blood pressure, managing diabetes (in combination with other herbs prescribed by your herbalist), stopping dry cough, and reducing some types of menopausal sweating. Plus, they’re tasty!

5. Eating: Yay! Pie, jam, you name it. There are so many great books and websites with recipes for canning, baking, and cooking, it seems the sky’s the limit. We especially enjoy getting together with friends to put up jam, to be eaten next winter when we are once again longing for the sun.

Berries are delicious and healthy, even when eaten wearing sweaters and gloves. Bon appétit!