Mom and Rea picking berries. (I made both their atikluks)
Last year we had a horrible season. It rained and rained and rained some more. You can pick berries in the rain, but why would you want to!? I think I purchased berries from up river last year to supplement the TWO days I was able to pick here.
Our season is one of four berries native to the arctic. Aqpiks (UCK-pick) or Salmonberries ripen first. They're technically Cloudberries, but people have called them salmonberries thanks to the similarity between the salmon eggs and the berry itself.
DID YOU KNOW: That aqpiks are the highest contributor of Vitamin C found in Northern Alaska. (I've heard rosehips have a higher Vit. C content but we don't find those here often).
After the Aqpiks, come the blueberries. Which is what I've been spending my time picking lately. Tundra blueberries are small bursts of flavor. The short growing season, combined with 24 hours of sun to ripen give them a seriously tart and distinct flavor. I don't think anyone who grew up eating our blueberries can ever really "like" blueberries found in the lower 48.
DID YOU KNOW: Tundra blueberries mold and ferment very easily. The only way to keep them from fermenting is to freeze them. White sugar and seal oil or caribou fat will also keep blueberries from fermenting by removing the air from around the berry. Also, wild tundra blueberries have 10-20 times the nutritional value compared to domestically grown blues.
Once the blues are softening the blackberries, and cranberries signal the last of the fall days, caribou hunting and time to get ready for winter. Right now, it's happy berry picking season up here, though, we aren't going to talk about the end of fall just yet!