Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Fall time is upon us (OK, fall time WAS upon us when I wrote this!) I, for one, am welcoming the cooler air, the rich, earthy smell of the leaves beginning to compost, the sight of mushrooms fruiting and, of course, berries! While we may not have abundant fruit options like those found in warmer climates, Alaska is rich in small, delicious, nutrient-packed berries.
There are many berry options in the forests of the far north, but for today, I want to focus on what Alaskans refer to as the high-bush cranberry. Viburnum edule goes by several common names including crampbark, mooseberry, and, in places outside of Alaska, low-bush cranberry (confusing, I know!) You’ll find it in thick patches in the forest; it’s vibrant, red berries popping out among it’s maple-shaped leaves that fade from a rich green to a deep maroon as summer wanes into fall.
It’s fruit, while not favored by some when eaten raw, is rich in vitamin C and can be made into all sorts of treats. I’ve had great success making high-bush cranberry jam, cranberry merengue pie and even used some of our cranberry chutney on an award-winning savory pie at a local pie contest. We use the berries in our fermentations as well. Cranberry water kefir is a beautiful color as well as a yummy treat and cranberry-clove kombucha turned out as one of Liz’s prize flavors this year. I intend to try some juices and perhaps a syrup this fall. Cranberry and mint, sweetened with some backyard honey is at the top of my list (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)
The berries are not the only part of Viburnum edule that is useful. The inner bark is well known for its anti-spasmodic properties, used for a variety of cramping, including menstrual cramps, uterine contractions during pregnancy, coughing spasms and general muscle cramps. It is helpful for both skeletal and smooth muscle, making it a favorite among herbalists for stress related tension and uterine cramping. It can be steeped in water and drank as tea or made into a tincture.
We offer a blend using crampbark, motherwort and yarrow- a powerful mix for women during menstration or anyone seeking some herbs with cooling properties. You can buy some for yourself on our shopping page! A plant that can ease cramps and provide a tasty treat will always be a winner in my book!