When I have the energy and stamina, one of my favorite things to do is go foraging with my husband and kids. It’s a fun activity that we can all do together, and since we generally end up with free food in the process it’s pretty rewarding. One of our regular finds lately are bunchberries. They seem to be everywhere we turn! When I found out they were edible, I thought I was in the money with berries. I was… half right and half wrong. While bunchberries are edible and a great high pectin snack to grab a few calories while out on the trail for a hike, I don’t really think they are tasty or substantial enough to spend time gathering. In my opinion, they have very little flavor and are a bit gritty in texture.
The bunchberry is a member of the dogwood family. It grows low to the forest floor and when you find it, it seems to go forever. It’s a subshrub (basically, a small shrub) and it only grows in places where the temperatures stay cool, even in the summer months. As you can imagine, the UP is a great place to find cooler temperatures, even in what I refer to as not winter (those few months where there’s no snow on the ground).
The fruit of the bunchberry are 5 millimeters in size and usually have one or two crunchy seeds on the inside. They turn bright red when they are mature and ready to eat in the summer months.
If you’re not familiar with the bunchberry, or any other berry found in Minnesota, Michigan, or Wisconsin, I highly suggest the field guide, Edible Berries & Fruits. It’s one of several foraging books I reference regularly when out hunting for edible plants. It’s small, which I love when it comes to toting something around with me in the woods.
Have you foraged for bunchberries? What do you think – are they worth picking to eat?