Monday, July 30, 2012

July is Thimbleberry

Delicate thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) ready to be eaten
Summer is the season of berries and in July, the warm sun ripens an unparalleled diversity of forest fruits. A couple days ago I ate 13 different berries in a single day, and over the last two weeks, I have eaten over 15 species. In this month, I accomplish some of my favorite foraging. Bike rides to the lake for a swim are interrupted by trailside snacking; dates with friends turn into berry picking missions; and fruit at the grocery store is almost entirely ignored, such is the bounty of the wild harvests.

Of the many berries to choose from, Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is July’s crowning jewel. It is our sweetest fruit and its delicate nature demands almost immediate consumption. Here in Bellingham, the first berries ripen around the first day of July. Peak harvest is in the third and fourth weeks of July, at which time they ripen so quickly that you can practically turn around after harvesting from a trailside patch, and find newly ripe berries on your way back home. The season is usually over by the second week in August.

Thimbleberries have an unusual affection for humans, as if they were designed to feed us. We never have to go far to find them since they inhabit sunny trail sides and the edges of clearings. Long after the humans have left, thimbleberries stand with ripe berries, inviting others to return. They grow abundantly in abandoned fields and even serve as an indicator for archaeologists attempting to locate ancient coastal village sites.

Below is a table of other July fruits showing their approximate ripening time for NW Washington near sea level. Add roughly 1 week for every 500 feet of elevation gain. Feel free to comment with ripening times in your area.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)                  May- July 21
Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)      June 1- July 15
Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)      June 1- July 15
Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)  June 1- August 30
Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)          June 15- July 7
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)        June 15- August 15
Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium)  June 21- August 30
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)               July 1- August 15
Black Currant (Ribes lacustre)                     July 15- August 15
Soapberry (Sheperdia canadensis)              July 15-August 7
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)           July 15- August 21
Dull Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa)       July 15-September 30
Tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium)    July 15-September 30
Salal (Gaultheria shallon)                            July 15- October 7
Blackcap Raspberry (Rubus leucodermis)  July 21- August 21
Trailing Blackberry (Rubus ursinus)           July 21- August 21
Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus discolor)     July 28- September 30

Also look for these wonderful cultivated berries in July

Cherry                                                         July 1- August 1
Raspberry                                                   July 7- September 31
Blueberry                                                    July 21- August 31
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