Some of my most vivid childhood memories have to do with gathering Indigenous foods in my hometown of Yakutat. Family berry picking sessions (even though middle-school me hid in the bushes when my friends drove by on their four-wheelers), marveling at the flickering silver candlefish in the moonlight as we scooped them into our net, tasting the vibrant orange sea urchin roe on the beach during Sea Week in elementary school. I am grateful for time spent immersed in our beautiful land - Tlingit Aani. Now that I live so far away I depend on those memories, along with some thoughtful food gifts from family, to sustain me until my next visit home.
My berry pudding is an adaptation of my mom’s Salmonberry Pudding. My favorite dessert for any occasion was Salmonberry Pie. A quicker version was a pot of simmering salmonberry pudding. All of the comforting sweet warmth of the succulent berries without the wait time of baking a pie. My little brother and I would empty the pot by returning to fill our bowls, each bite warming heart and soul. Since I don’t have bags of salmonberries stored away in my Alabama freezer, I improvise by using Costco’s Triple Berry Blend. Though the berries are not from our Tlingit Aani, they are a reminder and I am still transported back to the cozy wood-burning stove that kept the generous pot of Salmonberry Pudding simmering. I can see that same sense of comfort in my own children as they savor a bowl, or two, or three...
Salmonberry aka rubus spectabilis
Salmonberry blossoms can be dried for tea. Salmonberry tea can help with gut issues and was traditionally used to ease labor pains.
The berries ripen early summer, ranging in color from a light orange/salmon color to deeper reds. The berries are a great source of antioxidants and are high in dietary fiber.
Salmonberry bark has medicinal qualities as well. The bark was traditionally used in powder form for relieving toothaches. In addition, salmonberry bark has astringent effects.