CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Native Fruits of the San Miguel Basin

 by Yvette Henson

Last Thursday I led a native fruit field trip that we call Native Fruits and Nuts of the San Miguel Basin.  This is a local class I developed and have taught several times over my years with Extension.  I enjoy it very much!  I thought I would share a little about the day and what we learned.

The San Miguel Basin refers to the San Miguel River watershed.  It is also what we call the area covered by my Extension Office, San Miguel and West Montrose counties.  For this class, we visited 4 locations from 9800' feet elevation in the mountains to 6800' elevation along the San Miguel River. At each location, we looked at plants that produce edible fruit and learned identification characteristics. we also talked about poisonous plants and the importance of being sure about your identification. The class was also given a booklet that gives identification keys, plant habitat and uses, including recipes.  We even harvested several kinds of fruit to make something yummy to share with each member of the class.

I will start with a photo of this year's class participants.

2023 SMB Native Fruit and Nut class participants

Some of the plants we saw in fruit were gooseberries (Ribes inerme), mountain currants (Ribes montigenum), Oregon grape holly (Berberis repens), blueberries and bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus and Vaccinium cespitosum), raspberries (Rubus idaeus), chokecherries (Prunus virginiana), buffalo berries (Shepherdia argentea), lemonade berries (Rhus trilobata) gamble oak acorns (Quercus gambelii) and service berries (Amelanchier alnifolia).

Gooseberries are tart.

Mountain currants are sweet.

Grape holly fruit make an excellent jelly.

These are bilberry flowers.
Blueberry and bilberry fruit look just like tiny versions of the blueberries we buy at the store.  

Wild raspberries are tart/sweet and are so yummy just to snack on. 
They can also be used mixed with other fruit in almost any recipe.

Chokecherries have a distinct flavor that causes your lips to feel puckery. 
They make the quintessential jelly and syrup of the western states.

Leigh Ann, a class participant, picking buffaloberries.

Buffaloberries are full of tart-sweet flavor!  They get sweeter when dried.

Lemonade berries, when soaked in water make a lemony flavored drink. 
They are refreshing to suck on when out hiking.

Gamble oak acorns are low in tannins and so aren't as bitter as most acorns.

Serviceberries are the sweetest native fruit I know of.  They make excellent juice that can be added to other beverages like tea or lemonade to sweeten them.  The fruit is so good eaten fresh!

I hope you enjoyed this picture blog of native fruits.  I would love to know your favorites, and how you prepare them!

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