The five most common wild ‘survival’ berries in North America include blackberries, blueberries, chokecherries, gooseberries and raspberries. Foraging and gathering wild berries may not fully sustain you in a survival situation, but can greatly supplement your wilderness diet if you have already secured a protein source. Wild berries serve as a great complement to any wilderness dinner and here are the five berries to focus on for any North American survival situation.
The blackberry is a common berry found across Canada and the United States with many uses in a wilderness survival situation. Its bark and leaves can also be eaten and used as an astringent and to help with inflammation of the gums if you have a toothache or infection.
Blackberries are also one of the most delicious berries around and fairly easy to forage in the right areas. On top of its high levels of nutrients, the blackberry is known for promoting alertness and increased brain activity. If you are looking for these magnificent berries, they grow very close to the ground and appear similar to raspberries much on a smaller plant. If you find some, pick as many as you can and save them for your next meal.
The blueberry is another amazing forage’able berry for survival purposes. Watch for bog areas with acidic soils to locate the blueberry plants. Generally, when one or more small cluster of blueberry plants has been located, there will be more to follow. The best time for blueberry picking is usually mid – late August, sometimes into September depending on the region. Although blueberries are small, during years with solid crops, you can pick a large bowlful in less than an hour.
Chokecherries are another viable option for berry picking in survival situations. They generally grow as small trees or shrubs and are found mostly in Southern Canada and the United States. Their fruit ranges from a red to dark red or even black, and they tend to grow in clusters. Chokecherries are bitter on their own but can be cooked into a paste used for making jellies, juices or even syrups.
Keep in mind that chokecherries have stones and that the chokecherry itself could be an astringent. As one of the most important berries for Indigenous peoples, they were used for natural dye to the making of wine when fermented, and a variety of other baking purposes. Chokecherries may not be particularly sweet or appetizing, but they will be a welcome treat if you have located some.
The gooseberry is a prickly shrub related to currants and found in most northern regions of North America. These wonderful berries range in color from green to dark purple and even red and are relatively tart tasting.
The gooseberry does contain great health benefits and much needed nutrients as well. Gooseberry extract is used to treat conjunctivitis and other eye ailments such as relieving the pressure of glaucoma. Gooseberries have also been found to assist with diabetes and help to prevent heart disease as they strengthen heart muscles as it pumps. The gooseberry may also serve as an anti-bacterial in a survival situation to be used on wounds and abrasions. Foraging for gooseberries however, the nutritional value probably outweighs any other properties that they might possess. Gooseberries are rather small but a good supply of them can add some much needed food for dinner.
The raspberry is one of the North America’s most popular wild berry for foraging, found in many areas of the Canada and the United States. Wild red raspberries grow on prickly bushes often in areas that have experienced burns previously. You should dress accordingly when picking raspberries as the plant can grab your clothing and scratch your skin.
Raspberries contain a great combination of fibre, antioxidants, minerals and nutrients in a time of need. The ripest raspberries are preferred and can be identified by the rich deep red color and, also, how easily they are plucked from their bush. Ripe berries will fall off easily to the touch. Raspberries can be consumed in a variety of ways, they are delicious, sweet and a good supply will foster a sense of well-being around your survival camp.
Final Word on Berry Foraging
When hunting, trapping, or fishing have failed, or to supplement any of those activities, foraging wild berries is perhaps the most common food gathering technique. The biggest effort involved in berry foraging is the expending of energy so focus on these 5 top berries and read my book; The Canadian Berry Cookbook for more tips on foraging and preparing berries in the wild.
For more great information on wildlife survival, be sure to read the rest of our North American Survival Series, right here at HookandBullet.com