Why Get to know thimbleberry:
Yummy berries grow abundantly along pathways, forest openings and cleared areas. The plant grows tall, has soft leaves and is comfy to get next to, (unlike the blackberry with the huge thorns). The berries are ripe early in the summer and are a fun treat to have along the trail during a family walk or long hike. One of my personal favourite berries that BC has to offer! The flavour is sweet but not too juicy and velvety to eat.
Where This Plant grows:
Grows from Alaska to California, and all throughout BC. It extends as far south as into the mountains of Mexico. They grow in moist to dry wooded to open sites, that being said, the thimble berry grows along most trails, woodland edges and sides of fields within the plants range. They do not generally form as large of thickets as some other berry plants but are rather scattered in amongst salmonberry, blackberry and Nootka rose. They do like moist soils, but can be found growing under poor conditions and even in very low light conditions deep under the forest canopy.
How to Identify thimbleberry:
Thimbleberry has soft fuzzy leaves that are shaped like maple leaves: they have five pointed lobes and are marginally toothed at the edges. The shrub can grow 500 cm to 2.5 m tall and does not have spines or thorns! During the first year growth the stems develop buds at the ground surface and bear only leaves, the second year stems live 2-3 years and bear flowers as well as leaves, and berries in the early summer. Flowers are white to light pink and occur in clusters of 2 to 7. The berry is made up of red “thimblelike” red druplets that seem to fall apart in your hand when it is truly ripe.
Berries are harvested and eaten fresh or made into jelly. Traditional peoples of the BC Coast harvested the berries just before they were ripe by picking the whole berry bud and letting them sit covered for 2 days to ripen on their own.
New sprouts are harvested in the spring and are eaten as a green vegetable, with the outer layer pealed they are eaten raw.
Leaves have astringent action when used as a tea, and offer action and benefit similar to red raspberry lead (since they are both in the same genus Rubus)
Although there are no dangerous plants that really look like thimbleberry, as with any plant exploration, make sure you do indeed have the berry that you think you do.
Nutritional Value of the berries:
The berries are fairly nutritious and are delicious when properly ripe. They contain moderate amounts of vitamins and minerals. Per 100 grams the berries are approximately 10 g of carbohydrates, 0.33 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and have 47 calories. They contain some Vitamin A and Vitamin C and contain minerals such as potassium, iron, and some calcium.
Turner, Nancy (1995) Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples. Royal BC Museum Handbook. Frisens. Canada. p. 124
MacKinnon et al. (2009) Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. p. 94-95