Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oregon Grape

Okay so I'm broke. But I need jam for my toast! Hey, Oregon Grape bush, I'm gonna pick ya.

So, for real, Oregon Grape -- Oregon's State flower -- is currently ripe, and it makes a decent jelly when made with an ample amount of sugar. While Oregon Grape isn't a true grape, they resemble grapes, and the jelly tastes like concord grape juice.

Oregon Grape, of the Mahonia species and Barberry family, has several varieties that grow in the Pacific Northwest. Cascade Oregon Grape (M. nervosa) and Tall Oregon Grape (M. aquifolium) were discovered by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. The fruit is high in vitamin C, and is an important food source for wildlife. Many people are surprised to learn that Oregon Grape is edible for humans as well, but they're not exactly palatable as they're very sour fresh off the bush. Herbalists love Oregon Grape as it has medicinal qualities as well. Used as an alternative to Goldenseal -- a wonderful herb that is threatened -- Oregon Grape root can be used to aid a variety of ailments, including  digestive issues. It is also claimed to aid skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis in the form of salves and soaps. (I can personally attest to this, as I have infused Oregon Grape root in oil, which I used in my soaps with positive results.)

Anyway, I went picking in a wooded park and brought home about two cups of berries. Before getting started, be sure to soak them in a salt water mix to draw any critters out.

Oregon Grape Jelly:

2 - 3 cups Oregon Grape berries
1 box pectin
2 - 3 cups water (or apple juice, if desired)
Sugar (I used about two cups but you can use more, if desired... it all depends on how sweet or tangy you want your preserves)
1 tablespoon honey

This recipe is easy to adjust if you're making a larger batch, increase the water to just cover the berries. But before you get started, rinse the berries well of the saline solution. Cook about five minutes in a pot or saucepan to soften them.

Now, some folks don't mash/crush the berries when making Oregon Grape preserves, but I crushed the berries a bit to release the juices and let them cook more. I strained the mix using a sieve  -- removing the seeds and skins, some of the pulp gets through the sieve but it's mostly juice -- and continued to cook the juice, where I added an equal amount of sugar (give or take, depending on your taste... for two cups of berries I added two cups of sugar and some honey). Add the pectin, bring the juice to a boil, and cook for another few minutes before pouring into jars.

Oregon Grape Jelly.

Toooooooast! Omnomnom.

My opinion of Oregon Grape jelly?

For more information, please see:

Wild Berries of the West by Betty Derig and Margaret C. Fuller
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford
Oregon Grape: Gentle Protector at thepracticalherbalist.com

This post was written for educational purposes only. The information in this post is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any disease. Please see disclaimer: Not all berries are edible, and many are poisonous, so do not consume any berry/plant without being 100 percent positive of identification. Consult a physician, Naturopathic doctor, or herbalist before using Oregon Grape for medicinal purposes. Do NOT use Oregon Grape while pregnant.

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