Ark of Taste
The salmonberry is classified as a bramble, akin to the raspberry, and becomes harvestable in the Pacific Northwest starting mid-June and ending in late July. The salmonberry is found in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon as well as parts of California and Canada. When ripe, the fruit resembles a raspberry in both size and shape. Colors of the ripened fruit range from a deep yellow to a blush orange or dark red. Mature berries are tender, sweet, mild and perfumed. They may be eaten in their raw state, used to make jams and jellies, or added to all manners of baked goods. The berry is not a cultivated crop and therefore it is generally foraged. Gatherers of the salmonberry should pick the fruit with care, as the stems are prickled and berries tend to be soft and fragile.
Salmonberries have a unique place at the historical dinner table. Akutag or aqutak —more commonly known as Eskimo ice cream—is a dish traditionally prepared by Native Alaskans. Akutag consists of animal fats and oils, berries (salmonberry included), and fish. Air is then incorporated, giving the dish a fluffy and appealing texture. Akutag is served at special occasions and has been a part of the indigenous diet for thousands of years.
The salmonberry has been a part of both indigenous and regional foodways in North America for millennia, but due to the plant’s relatively small growing region, the salmonberry has never enjoyed the widespread popularity of most berries. However, the salmonberry is deeply appreciated by the communities it serves. It is especially culturally significant to Native peoples, appearing in their cuisine, folklore, and medicinal practices.