Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus

Dear Editor,

The various books say that the thimbleberry is to be found in coastal California, coastal Oregon, coastal Washington, coastal British Columbia, Southeast Alaska, and Wisconsin. In fact, I understand that they hold a thimbleberry festival in Wisconsin.

On the Olympic Peninsula, they get ripe around the first of August. I would help my mother pick the berries with which she would make delicious jam. One berry book described them as being “hardly edible”. An Alaska State booklet described them as having an “insipid taste”. A third book, by VernaPratt, said “rarely used.” None of these experts, I suspect, ever made jam out of them.

My older brother, who was into winemaking, thought they might make good wine, which they might. I once asked a friend of mine, who was from Southeast Alaska, “Gil, do you know what thimbleberries are?” He replied, with a wide, enthusiastic smile, “Oh yeah, they make the finest jam there is!” I strongly suspect that these various experts never made jam out of them.

One time I planted some raspberries, (they’re of the Rubus family too), next to a lady friend’s house. We did a lot of salmon fishing; so about the second year, I pulled the surface dirt away from the raspberry roots, trying to disturb them as little as possible, added some salmon guts, put the dirt back and mulch them with cottonwood chips. Naturally, I kept them well watered.

Those raspberries outdid themselves; with huge next year’s canes and lots of large, sweet berries. Since thimbleberries are of the Rubus family as raspberries, I can’t help but feel that properly fertilized and watered, they, the thimbleberries, would respond in a similar manner.

My son and I happened to be down west of Forks one summer. I grew up in that area. We picked a bunch of thimbleberries, which I brought back to Anchorage to make jam out of. Using the MCP pectin recipe for raspberry jam, I made twenty-four half-pint jars of jam out of them. I sent twelve of them to my son in Barrow and kept twelve for myself. Alaska Wild Berry was setting up a Christmas booth in one of the malls, here in Anchorage. I approached the owner, (actually, I think he was the son of the founder), with a jar of my jam. He accepted it, removed the cover and scooped some of the jam out with his finger and tasted it. He said, “Boy that’s good jam, you make it?”

Of course, I had. So much for “hardly edible” and “insipid taste”.

I then asked him if he would be interested in purchasing the berries? He replied, “I’ll take all the berries you can furnish me.”

No price was mentioned.

I’m 88 years old and I hurt my back on a construction job years ago – – old age is catching up with me. There’s seaweed with all the trace minerals and the nitrogen of cow manure, wood charcoal and dilute food-grade hydrogen peroxide. All that’s required is the place, the effort, and the interest. Good luck.

Bert Maupin, Class of ‘52