Fingers stained red and violet. Lips stained blue. Juicy goodness on your salad, ice cream or in your drink. Berry season is here.
From June to mid-September each year, greater Vancouver literally bursts with the flavourful, anti-oxidizing orbs, thimbles and caps. Berry fans congregate to celebrate, bake, drink and pick strawberries, blueberries and others throughout the summer months. In fact, on July 17th, the Main Street Farmers’ Market is hosting a Berry Festival.
In the last year, I’ve discovered the magic of foraging for local berries. I love the plump, seedy tartness of salmonberries and the sweeter squish of huckleberries, both quintessential parts of local Coast Salish diets long before Captain George Vancouver came to these shores.
You can find both growing on the boggy edges and open areas of local coastal forests throughout out June, July and August depending on weather throughout the season. This year local, native berry species like salmonberries and huckleberries are out early because of the relatively mild, sunny June we’ve had.
Huckleberries and salmonberries grow in many of Vancouver’s regional and city parks. You can spot the subdued translucent yellow and bright red salmonberries on raspberry looking bushes. Their spikey stalks protect the fat, crowned berries but they’re not as nasty to retreive as blackberries. Huckleberries are a dark purple/indigo and look a lot like blueberries but smaller. Here’s a tip: don’t pick too many because the critters in local parks are supposed to get first pick.
For fans of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries there’s a plentitude of places to snatch them up in Vancouver. Strawberries are at their best from June to mid-July, while raspberries peak from late June to late July. Blueberry bushes are bursting from late July throughout August while the harder-to-pick blackberries are ready from late July to mid-September.
The DIY set usually visit a number of farms on Westham Island in Delta that offer u-pick options including Westham Island Herb Farm or Emma Lea. They’re all located about 30 minutes south of Vancouver and make for a great day trip with family or friends.
No time to pick the berries yourself? Then head to the Vancouver Farmers Markets, Shangri-La market or UBC Farm to grab your canning, baking and cocktail supplies. One of my favourite berry recipes is a beach BBQ or picnic-ready key lime and blackberry trifle from Vancouver foodie blog Cup and Carry.
Many Vancouver restaurants feature seasonal berry dishes throughout the summer. Some restos, like Raincity Grill, work hard through the hot summer months to preserve berries so that they can offer the local sweeties to customers 12 months a year.
Looking to dazzle your berry loving friends? Check some local restos that treasure berries as much as you and I.
Raincity Grill - For a light lunch order the Hannah Brook Farm biodynamic greens with huckleberry vinaigrette, burrata and honeycomb. Follow up with the beautifully textured berries and yogurt dessert: blueberry meringue crumbles with raspberry and fennel sorbet, shaved chocolate and honey-yogurt.
Forage - Dig a berry blast in the morning? Try the brioche French toast with fir-spiked strawberries or the buttermilk pancakes with Fraser Valley blueberries.
Bella Gelateria - If you like your berries blended and cold try the seasonal berry sorbettos at the award-winning gelateria. Right now strawberry sorbetto sourced from Langley’s Krause Farms are on offer.
Thierry - Macarons are Vancouver’s sweet treat du jour. Thierry on Alberni Street makes raspberry macarons right now and will transition to blackberry macarons later in summer.
Cactus Club Café and Lulu Island Winery - Sometimes I prefer my berries in liquid format. The Cactus Club serves minty cohibas with muddled fresh blackberries. Located in Richmond, Lulu Island makes blueberry, cranberry and raspberry fruit wines.