Crowberry (pictured top)
These dark, shiny, round berries grow on trailing stems of low-growing evergreen shrubs. The berries can be found on the bushes year-round and are delicious in muffins and cakes as well as in jams or jellies. Crowberries also can be made into wine or juice and are great plain or dried. According to wild plant specialist Janice J. Schofield the Dena'ina Athabaskan tribe drinks crowberry concoctions for upset stomachs.
A favorite among foragers of all kinds, the blueberry is hard to miss. These marble-sized berries grow on shrubs. Their leaves are ovate and simple and their spring flowers are tiny white or pink bells. Their flowers are also edible! Blueberries are high in iron and reportedly are effective in treating urinary disorders. Blueberries are used in pies, muffins, pancakes, cobblers, jams and wine.
Juniper berries may be best known for their use in gin. They are the main ingredient in this alcoholic beverage and smell like gin. Their shrubs are in the cypress family and are identifiable by their needle-like leaves and dusty-looking, blue-colored berries. The berries are often used in gourmet wild-game dishes. Their fresh twigs can be steeped to make a tea.
All parts of this plant are edible, even the periwinkle-colored flowers that bloom on sunny days. The plant can grow from 1 to 6 feet tall, but most of its leaves grow toward the bottom of the plant. The leaves can be used raw in salad or the whole plant can be boiled. A milky juice will bleed from the stems if they're broken. The plant's roasted roots are sometimes used as a coffee substitute. Chicory also has mild diuretic and laxative properties.
The showy, four-petaled pink flowers of fireweed are quite a spectacle when they bloom across an entire field. The flowers bloom from the bottom of their stalks throughout the summer. The early spring shoots (before the leaves develop) are high in vitamins A and C and can be eaten steamed, fried or pickled. The blossoms can be used in salads and also made into a jelly or tea.
Be aware of any common poisonous plants in your area. Baneberry, for example, is deadly. Some plants, such as bright and cheery, yellow arnica flowers, are a great topical pain reliever but can be toxic if ingested.