Wild berries: harvest nature’s sweet treats with these tips | VailDaily.com

Wild berries: harvest nature’s sweet treats with these tips

As area gardens are revealing a bountiful harvest, don't forget about Mother Nature's natural yield of berries along the hiking trails.

Eagle County is home to thimbleberries, serviceberries, raspberries, strawberries, huckleberries and juniper berries. These sweet treats can make delicious pies, jams and even cocktail elixirs and some have medicinal effects.

"Juniper berry tea can be used to aid digestion, stimulate appetite, treat diarrhea, reduce inflammation and a host of other holistic uses," said Peter Suneson, Community Programs Manager for Walking Mountains Science Center.

Although these brightly colored fruitful gems look inviting, always remember safety first. "A good rule of thumb is to never eat anything you cannot 100 percent identify. Try small quantities at first before making a pie to make sure they don’t upset your stomach," said Suneson.

Before hunting for berries, check with the local forest service office to determine if permits are necessary to collect berries on public lands. "In our immediate area, permits are not needed for berries if you are picking them for personal use, basically less than a gallon," said Suneson. "If you plan on picking large quantities or to produce products for resale, the Forest Service does ask you obtain a permit," said Suneson.

Although it may be tempting, don't stray off the trail to pick ripe berries. More traffic off-trail damages the forest and trails.

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Even though these berries may be irresistible, remember that these berries are a natural point of supply of nutrients for wildlife in that area. "The native animals rely on these food sources and we have other options, like the grocery store," said Suneson.

To pick berries safely, come to Walking Mountains and check out their library of resources, ask one of their naturalists or purchase a field guide. View today's video to learn more about berries in our area.