Foraging for Manzanita Berries
This is a post I put up last year, but I wanted to update it and post it again for all my California followers. We are hitting Manzanita berry season, and they are so worth foraging for! They are very easy to pick and process, and they are ALL over the place.
Foraging is basically finding edible plants that grow locally and abundantly in the wild. I had heard Manzanita (found in southern British Columbia down to southern California and New Mexico) had berries that were edible. As a side note, I did a lot of research. As fun and easy as foraging is, there are dangers if you identify plants and trees incorrectly. Manzanita, luckily, is very easy to identify and there are no poisonous plants or bushes that look anything like them.
You can harvest Manzanita berries from July-November They are surprising when you bite into them. It’s a sweet powder inside (spit out the seeds) rather than a juicy berry like you would expect. But you have to remember, these guys make it through 5 months with no rain… no wonder they are dehydrated powder on the inside!
This is what Manzanita looks like. It has maroon bark that is very smooth (or sometimes peeling off) and round-ish shaped light green leaves. Not all the bushes have berries so you have to keep an eye out for Manzanita that have berries this year. You don’t really have to pick the berries, they more just fall off into your hand if you give them a light squeeze. I try to pick around at least a gallon at a time. A gallon of berries usually yields about ½ gallon of sugar/flour.
Once you have your berries, wash them and let them dry on a towel. Once thoroughly dry, roll them on the counter with light pressure from the palm of your hand to break off the stems. Pick out any stems (these are bitter) and leaves. Put the berries in a food processor or blender on low to medium. This separates the seeds from the sugar/flour. Sift out the seeds. The seeds can be simmered in water for 20 minutes (1 part seeds to 4 parts water) then strain out the seeds. They make an amazing hot or cold tea. It’s one of my favorite ice teas to make!
You can do all sorts of things with the flour/sugar. I made a dressing recipe once, but my favorite is this cookie recipe! I also added the flour to pancake mix. You can’t completely replace the entire called for flour amount in recipes, but if a recipe calls for 1 c of flour, I can do 1/4 c. of the manzanita flour and 3/4 c of regular flour.
Here’s my favorite (and healthy!) cookie recipe for them:
1 cup of flour (spelt, whole wheat, and almond all work great)
½ cup of Manzanita flour
½ cup of coconut oil (warm enough to be liquid)
¼ cup of honey
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Combine together. Make into small 1” balls and place on a cookie sheet 3-4” apart. Use a fork to press balls into found cookie shape. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
Have some fun trying to forage for Manzanita berries. They store for at least a year so if you don’t have time to process them immediately, don’t worry. Put them in a pretty bowl and set them out as decoration. I still have a huge glass bowel full of the berries at my house, and I picked them 9 months ago!