Chefs on the FarmBlueberry, huckleberries and salal berries are all ripe in the fall, just as Thanksgiving rolls around and thoughts of tasty sauces dance in our heads.

This year, instead of grabbing a can of pre-made cranberry sauce to accompany your Thanksgiving meal, think about collecting your berries au natural – foraging style, like our forefathers did! Depending on your location, blueberries, huckleberries and the lesser known salal berries are in season and available for picking and sauce making. Think of the excitement your family will feel when they sit down to a meal where one of the items on the menu they helped collect themselves! Beyond being tasty, gathering berries is a great fall activity for getting kids excited about the outdoors and trying new foods.

To put something new on the table this Thanksgiving, try making Wild Salal-Cranberry Compote from Jennifer Hahn's foraging book, Pacific Feast. Here's the recipe and what Jennifer says about the berry in Pacific Feast:



salal berriesGaultheria shallon
Family: Ericaceae
Status: Native
Other Common Varieties and Names: Oregon wintergreen, lemon-leaf


Description: An evergreen, perennial shrub from 1- to 20-feet tall. May take the form of waist-high understory mats. Evergreen leaves are glossy and up to 4-inches long, with a leathery texture, lemon-shaped outline, and finely toothed edges. Leaves live three to four years and grow alternately on wiry stems. Waxy pink flowers hang in rows of 5 to 15 on one scarlet stalk and bloom May to July. Oval reddish-blue to purple black berries about ¾-inch long hang like lanterns on a string. Look for a hallmark, star-shaped indent on berry's end.

Location: Pacific coast from Southeast Alaska to southern California; moist evergreen or redwood forests; logged areas; wetland stumps or as epiphytes in trees; sea level to 2600 feet.

Edible Parts: Berries. Traditionally, salal leaves (also called lemon leaves) were layered with fish for flavor. Paint salal leaves with melted chocolate, chill to harden, pull away the original leaf, and arrange on frosted cakes for festive occasions.

Now that you've located and collected your plant, let's get to work on our compote!


Wild Salal–Cranberry Compote

Recipe found in Pacific Feast, created by: Abalone Annette and Limpet Laura, foragers
Seattle, Washington

Salal Berry Compote
Serve this versatile compote, bristling with citrus and wild berries, on savory or dessert dishes— warm or cold. For a local twist, spoon over Thanksgiving turkey or barbecued salmon instead of traditional cranberry sauce. It can be made months ahead and freezes well. Dolloped on pancakes, waffles, or breakfast muffins, it is a scrumptious fruit topping with a pleasing balance of sweet and tart. Yield: 4 cups

  • 3 cups salal berries, whole with skins and seeds
  • rind of 1 organic orange, coarsely grated
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 cups whole cranberries
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer on low, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until cranberries are soft and translucent red.  The finished compote will contain some whole salal berries and soft, popped cranberries and will be a bit chunky.

Author’s note: Several delicious wild cranberry species grow in the Northwest, such as highbush cranberry (also called squashberry), Viburnum edule; lowbush cranberry (also called mountain cranberry and lingonberry), Vaccinium vitis-idaea; and bog cranberry (also called small cranberry), Vaccinium oxycoccos. All can be foraged in late summer or early fall and replace store-bought cranberries in this dish.


-- Adapted from Pacific Feast, Skipstone ©
-- image #1 credit --- image #2 credit, Langdon Cook at Fat of the Land

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