It’s officially salal berry season!

Last year was the first time I had ever seen one of these berries in my life. Although very common throughout the central Oregon coast, salal berries are still a very unknown berry to most other places in the world, including just inland a bit. And coming from the Oregon City area, I hadn’t ever eaten one until moving to Waldport.

Perhaps it’s because it is so common that it’s often overlooked or dismissed as an invasive plant with perhaps poisonous berries, but these berries are not only edible, they’re delicious and incredibly nutritious.

Salal berries and salal leaves both have some pretty incredible health benefits. The berries themselves are among some of the healthiest berries we commonly consume today and are extremely rich in antioxidants. They have been shown to be protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease and even neurodegenerative diseases.

With a taste similar to a mild, earthy blueberry they’re perfect for jams and jellies or snacking on straight from the bush. The leaves themselves also have incredible health benefits ranging from indigestion to sore throats, and although I wouldn’t recommend snacking on these leaves straight from the plant due to their bitter taste, they can be dried and used in teas, especially in combination with those delicious berries.

Harvesting these berries can be a little messy though — they don’t release from the vine quite as easily as other berries. So I’ve found that the best way to harvest them is to simply squeeze the top of the berry right at the stem and the berry itself should pop right off.

So impress your coastal guests this summer with some super simple Oregon coast eats with these nutritious berries, whether in salads, jams, muffins or pancakes for the little ones. With their sweet mild flavor, they’re perfect for any dish!

Salal Berry Jam

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh Salal berries

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon organic agave nectar

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, add berries and sugar and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Once berries have reduced by approximately half and have thickened to a jam-like consistency, remove from heat, add agave nectar and gently stir until incorporated. Allow to cool for at least two hours, then enjoy as you would any other jam.

Wild Salal Berry Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups Oregon coast salal berries (blueberries would be a good substitution for those who don’t have access to salal)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoons almond extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium bowl, combine cream, sour cream, egg, melted butter and almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine with the wet ingredients, stirring Only until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Gingerly add blueberries to the batter, taking care not to damage them. Pour batter into greased 12-inch cast iron skillet.

4. Bake for 45 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven, serve with almond whipped cream and enjoy!

Almond Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

In medium mixing bowl, add heavy cream, sugar and almond extract.

Use the wire whisk attachment to a hand-held mixer, and beat the ingredients together, starting on low speed and increasing to high slowly as it begins to firm up.

Beat for 60-90 seconds until stiff peaks form. Stopping once halfway through to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Enjoy!

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