Wild Berry Desserts: Enjoy In Camp or At Home

Thanks to its diverse woodlands, our province dishes up an assortment of wild berry patches. So whether you’re on a fishing or hunting adventure, there is always a sweet treat somewhere nearby, just waiting to be picked. And nothing tops off an exciting day spent outdoors better than a mouth-watering wild berry dessert. The most suitable picks for beginner foragers are strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries because these wild fruits closely resemble their cultivated kin, making them easy to identify.

To ensure safe eating, do not pick berries along roadsides where they’ll be contaminated with dust or in areas sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Watch for signs posted by the forestry warning where sprays have been used.

Berries can be used interchangeably in the recipes below, so it’s easy to adapt the dessert menu to suit the season. And if wild pick isn’t on the menu, domestic berries will certainly do.

Strawberry bannock, ready to be fried.
Strawberry bannock, ready to be fried.

Berry Bannock

I’ve used strawberries for this recipe, which ripen in the early part of June. They grow in sandy, sunny meadows and are a great pick for this recipe because it doesn’t take many to add a burst of flavour to the bannock. In a bowl, combine 3 cups f lour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar and pinch of ground cinnamon. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup (more or less) wild strawberries. If using tame berries, dice them into small pieces. Mix well. Turn out on floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into eight pieces, form into balls and pat into circles. Fry in hot oil in a cast-iron skillet until golden on both sides. Sprinkle with sugar while warm, if desired.

Serving up raspberry dream pie.
Serving up raspberry dream pie.

Raspberry Dream Pie

Raspberries begin to ripen in July and can be found growing at the edges of forests, along rocky shorelines, old logged areas and on brushy slopes. Being extra juicy, they are a top pick for this cool pie, which can be made in camp if you pack a container of frozen Cool Whip in the icebox, along with ice cubes. Dissolve 1 package of raspberry Jell-O in 2/3 cup boiling water (or match the flavour of Jell-O to the berry). Add 2 cups ice cubes and stir until it begins to thicken. Remove unmelted ice. Blend 1 tub (1 litre) thawed Cool Whip into the jelly. Fold in 1 cup raspberries. Spoon the mixture into a ready-made graham wafer crumb crust and chill until serving time. Garnish with additional berries upon serving.

A bowl of blackberry cobbler.
A bowl of blackberry cobbler.

Blackberry Cobbler

Full-bodied blackberries stand up well in baked recipes such as this. They grow in abundance throughout southern BC, hedging forests, fields and waterways. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants to protect arms and legs from getting scratched by the thorns, which are much sharper than those of the raspberry bush. Measure 1 cup each of sugar and flour into a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup melted butter (or margarine) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until smooth. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, pour in the batter and scatter 1 cup blackberries evenly over top. Sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar. Put a lid on the skillet, set over coals and bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden. If making at home, bake in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Blueberry Dumplings

Blueberries are one of BC’s most popular berries for foragers. One reason being they are so plentiful, often carpeting the forest floor in blue. Another reason is because they are so delicious. Once your gang tastes this luscious dessert, they’ll be as eager to pick berries in the autumn as they are to hunt. Make the dumpling dough first by stirring together 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter (or margarine) until crumbly. Stir in 1/2 cup milk to make a soft dough. Set aside. In Dutch oven (if campfire cooking) put 4 cups blueberries, 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, bring to a boil.

Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch into 2 tablespoons water, stir into berries and cook until slightly thickened. Drop dumpling dough by spoonful onto blueberries. Cover the pot and cook 15 minutes – without peeking.

Campfire Berry Cones

A special treat for kids! Spread the inside of a wafer ice cream cone or wafer bowl with peanut butter or hazelnut spread. Fill with a mixture of chocolate chips and wild berries of season. Top with mini marshmallows. Hold cones between the prongs of a cooking fork or sit bowls on the fire grate and heat until chips are melted and marshmallows are toasted. Or heat under oven broiler if making at home.