by Alison Neumann

Local Healthy Foraging

The team at VAST focuses on 9 Core Values in everything we do. Essentially, it’s who we are.  One of VAST’s 9 Core Values is Healthy.  The VAST team focuses on being healthy in body, mind, and spirit.  Part of a healthy lifestyle is diet.

Foraging for berries is not only easy to do in the Marquette area, but it can also be a fun adventure, save you money on groceries, and it is a healthy addition to your diet!  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has many opportunities to forage healthy food.  Many Yoopers enjoy taking part in foraging favorite berries when they ripen, as the growing season here is shorter than most.  Some local wild berries to forage include:

  • Blueberries – whether you’re after highbush or lowbush varieties, these are plentiful throughout the sandy, pine forested areas of the U.P. in mid-July to early August. Find your own secret picking spot, or chase other pickers pulled over on the side of the road.  The sweet, delicious, tiny berries are a highly sought U.P. favorite.
  • Raspberries – found most often on the edges of forested areas, or you can try growing your own in a backyard garden, and some varieties are even thornless! These delicious berries ripen at the end of July to early August.
  • Blackberries – these berries are found often in marginal conditions, and are common among roadsides and along the edges of forested areas. Also a favorite to cultivate in a backyard garden, this thorny variety of delicious wild berries ripens mid-to-late August.
  • Thimbleberries – which are actually a wild variety of the raspberry, are plentiful in early August in the Upper Peninsula. But act fast, because you’ll be in competition with bears and birds for these tart, sweet, fragile berries.
  • Serviceberries a.k.a. Saskatoons – these grow on trees and are commonly scavenged by birds. If you are lucky enough to gather some before the birds eat them all, they are sweet and similar to blueberries in look and taste.  Also called the Juneberry, these berries ripen in June-July in the U.P. depending on the summer temperatures, and are found commonly near Lake Superior on the side of the road.  Serviceberry trees are often sold as decorative trees, which are both attractive and delicious!
  • Wintergreen berries – a favorite for teas, cordials, and extracts, these berries and their leaves taste minty and have been found year-round in the Marquette area, as long as the snow hasn’t buried them. These berries are found most commonly in forested areas close to the ground, and are bright red in color.

Other local food commonly foraged:

  • Rose hips – the fruit of the rose plant, and similar to apples in taste.
  • Apples – found growing wild throughout the region.
  • Leeks – also called wild onions, found abundantly in forested areas, make a nice substitute for onions raw or cooked.
  • Mushrooms – be careful before eating, as many varieties are poisonous, but some delicious varieties found locally like morels and puffballs are a treat.

Bring your bug protection, sun protection, and even bear protection while out foraging.  Be sure to thoroughly rinse off the berries before eating or storing them for use because you never know if pesticides, bug repellents, or animals have touched their skins.

Enjoy your hand-picked berries raw or in jams, pancakes, muffins, mead, kombucha, cobbler, and pies galore.  Use them now, or freeze them for the long months of winter when you can thaw them and enjoy them in smoothies, yogurts, ice cream, and the like.  Take advantage of the many health benefits foraging your own berries can offer!


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