Yummy Wild Red Thimbleberries – Rubus parviflorus
This was a native edible we had learned about only a couple years ago. Backpacking to one of our favorite coast river spots in the early September, we spotted a plethora of rasberry-like berries. They grew in large numbers beneath the redwoods in sunny patches. We googled them and identified them as thimbleberries.
Come to find out, the thimbleberry is native to western North America from Alaska south as far as California, New Mexico, Chihuahua, and San Luis Potosí. Its range extends east to the Rocky Mountains and discontinuously to the Great Lakes Region. It grows from sea level in the north, up to elevations of 3,000 m (10,000 ft) in the south. They are also delicious – both sweeter and tarter than your average raspberry. Thimbleberries have an upright shrub with multiple, thornless stems or canes reaching heights of 7’. The bark is distinct in that it peels in tiny fragments.
The sizeable leaves are between 4” – 8” across with five points, reminiscent of a maple leaf. Fine hairs are on either side of the leaf, making it soft to the touch. No other member of the Rubus family has this characteristic leaf.
The Thimbleberry is Good for You
The young shoots, roots and leaves have been used to treat many ailments. A tea is made of the leaves or roots as a blood tonic in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dysentery. Its effects are believed to tone and strengthen the stomach helping increase appetite. Rich in vitamin C, Thimbleberry helps boost your immune system and was used to ward off scurvy. A poultice of the dried powdered leaves treats wounds and burns and the fresh leaves can be crushed and applied to treat acne. A decoction of the roots has also been taken to treat acne. There are also many other health benefits of Thimbleberries.
We harvested these delightful edibles in the Jackson Demonstration Forest in Mendocino County. In mid-July, they were just starting to ripen in scattered clusters all along the river. The wild blackberry often grows with and around it for a varied berry treat.