One thing is for sure, we are fully into the foraging season now. I’m starting to get really excited for all of the wonderful foraging that will be happening soon, especially berries! Today I will be talking about foraging for Oregon Grape, which isn’t technically a grape at all, but a bush in the barberry family that has edible berries and medicinal properties.
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them, check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
Oregon Grape is native to Oregon (hence the name) and other western states. It is in the barberry family and has spiny leaves similar to hollies. It is sometimes called Oregon grape-holly, although it’s not a grape or a holly! There are several different species of Oregon Grape, the tall and the low seeming to be the most common. The tall variety is what is most commonly used in yards for landscaping purposes, and we even have some in our yard.
The low variety can be found out in the woods fairly easily as it tends to be more wild.
The berries are not grapes nor do they taste anything like grapes. In fact, they are very tart, but edible nonetheless. They ripen from late June through August, depending on your location.
They actually look quite similar to juniper berries, which also have a whitish “bloom” coating. The best way to use the berries is to make jam, pie or wine. Anything where sugar is added! I’m thinking an Oregon Grape mead would be quite nice.
Even with the spiny leaves the berries come off their stems quite easily, which is nice. It didn’t take long for me to get a small bowl full.
Besides having edible berries, Oregon Grape is also well known as a medicinal plant. It contains the compound berberine, which is mainly found in the roots and bark of the plant. Berberine is antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic. In the low wild variety you can pretty much only get it from the roots, but in the tall variety the stems are much larger so you can shave off the bark to access it. It has a noticeable yellow color.
You can use the roots and stems to make a tea, tincture, oil infusion, or salve. If you don’t live in western states or can’t seem to find any wild Oregon Grape in your area, you can always order the root from Mountain Rose Herbs.
For now, though, I’m going to think about what to do with these awesome berries! There’s a lot more where these came from, and I’m thinking maybe a jam. I would also love to play around with using the roots and stems in a tea or oil infusion for salve.
What a wonderful and highly useful plant!