Earlier this year, I made up my mind that I was going to pick berries – whatever it took, wherever I was, whatever weather! And luckily for us up here in the north, this Summer has been one of the best in recorded memory! I picked soap berries in Whitehorse, Huckleberries in Haines, nagoon berries in Juneau and raspberries and blueberries in Hoonah! I make my fortune by making myself fortunate in taking advantage of the fruits of our land — golly, and imagine all the berries that are out there that never get picked!
Always pick berries with friends and relatives. Never go alone. Remember: we have bears who feast on berries just like we do at this time of year. Even though we see them as relatives, bears are much bigger and stronger than us and therefore, we must respect them, right? Right.
We do not have soap berries in Southeast Alaska, so I never picked them. I remember my grandmother and mother would receive a precious jar of soapberries during a potlatch; it was always a prized possession. In fact, so prized that I was given a tiny jar of soapberries from a potlatch that I attended about 5 years ago – I still have it; never opened. I told myself that I would never open it until I meet the soapberry and pick ‘em myself – I had this chance back in July – I picked all I could in a short amount of time and hand-carried it on a plane to my friend in Hoonah in honor of her mother who had recently passed.
The “cloud berries” of Yukon, if I am not mistaken, seem to be a relative of the Nagoon, but do not quote me on this. These berries are generally the last berry to harvest, ripening in mid to late August. However, the berries are all in a bumper crop this year which of course puts stress on us berry pickers. The raspberries, nagoons, blueberries, and thimble berries are all ripe at the same time!
The fragrance of the nagoon is like nothing else, just like its flavor. If you’ve never had nagoon, if you’ve never even picked a fresh nagoon from it’s habitat and popped it into your mouth, you have not yet lived!