There’s an old wives’ tale that says if a bird won’t eat a fruit, it’s poisonous. As it turns out this tale is not true for many fruits, including Highbush cranberries. While these cranberries are edible, most birds and animals avoid them because they taste quite sour and they have a scent that is not appealing. Make no mistake, when you eat these berries raw, it tastes as though you are eating poisonous berries. Their flavour borders with disgusting but there are several things you can do to turn this negative into a positive.
Real cranberries are in the Heath family. Highbush cranberries are in the Honeysuckle family, and are actually related to elderberries. Highbush cranberry fruit (or drupes) grow on a deciduous shrub that can grow anywhere between 3 and 5 metres in height. The leaves are opposite, serrated, and tri-lobed, somewhat resembling those of a maple tree.
Historically the bark of the Highbush cranberry has been used for menstrual cramps, which accounts for one of its common names, crampbark. In the spring, this shrub blossoms with bursts of white flowers, somewhat resembling hydrangeas with smaller flowers in the center, and larger sterile flowers bordering them in a ring. Highbush cranberry shrubs fruit in late summer, at first green then turning red. Each berry contains a single flat disk-shaped seed.
Harvesting Highbush Cranberries
These fruits can be harvested before or after a frost but they are softer and easier to work with after a good frost. Highbush cranberries are easy to pick and can easily be pulled from the shrubs without making a huge mess.
Highbush cranberries can be harvested even during the long cold winter months. Only when no other food is available will wildlife resort to eating these fruits so the good news is that in most areas these fruits are still on the bush in spring. (Great winter survival tip to remember.)
I must say that Highbush cranberries are a food for creative culinary talents. If you want to walk on the edible wild side of life then you can use these cranberries with your Thanksgiving meal. Check out this Highbush Cranberry Sauce if you want to try it out this Thanksgiving.
In addition to a sauce, you can use these fruits as you would with any other fruit to make jams and jellies as well.
I want to know where I can find and pick these cranberries within about a 100 mile or 160 km radius of Calgary?
Look for ash trees as they grow hand in Hand usually on a sunny slope where there is old trees nicked down by mother nature. I go looking after we have had a good frost as the berries are still on the trees and the leaves are gone
We have high bush cranberries in our orchard just outside Innisfail, about one hour north of Calgary. Anyone who is interested is welcome to come and pick them! You can find more information @ Facebook.com/sweetacresorchard
They stink like feet but it makes a great tasting jelly that bares the same smell.
I planted Highbury cranberries thinking them to be knee high. They are well over my head and so colourful in the fall, they don’t look real. They look gorgeous in bouquets. Berries very bitter so our wildlife passes them up. Froze some and going to try jelly and jam soon. They can be a sauce or liquor as well. They are beautiful for landscaping and grow easily from berries dropped on the ground. If you would like a bush,email me and I’ll try sending it to you in a tube (works for herbs). I have a cracked kneecap so may be awhile before I can get it to you. All the best SO
It is so nice of you to send the berries . It is
Like Christmas in november,thank you again.
Someone please tell me if the seed in the high bush cranberry is poisonous or healthy to totally grind up with the berry for making a jam or a catch-up
I have eaten them in small quantities – although I urge you to do some research as I haven’t a definitive answer to your question.
I make cranberry tarts from these cranberries without bothering to remove the seeds. They are far form poisonous. The recipe I use is
1 scant cup sugar
1 Tbsp Corn Starch
2 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp butter
In a saucepan, combine sugar and Corn Starch. Add the cranberries, orange juice and butter. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Cook a few minutes longer or until thickened and bubbly. Cool before putting tart shells (which I buy).
I’m in Winnipeg. My parents had high bush cranberries at one of their homes and I can still remember picking them for my Mom to make jelly. They certainly had a “strong scent” when ripe and were very easy to pick late in the fall. As mentioned in this article, one of the great things about the berries is that you are not fighting Mother Nature when you pick them. ie: no bears, birds, squirrels. However, aphids seemed to love them when they were ripe.
I picked a few gallons of highbush cranberries a few days ago.Early September. Makes awesome jelly!
My mother used to make a sauce from th Highbush Cranberries. We would pour it onto pancakes, then cream and sprinkle with sugar. It was delicious!
For anyone who has made jelly and some extra to sell I would love to buy a jar or 2. My mother is 98 and she loves it. I would love for my mom to have some.
Email me Cynthia – when the berries are out I will make a small jar for your grandmother – just pay for postage and all is good!
Throw them in the juicer !! Harvest in fall/ freeze to use all winter
Juice recipes is
2/3 cup cranberry juice
Love this in the am!!
I have one very red with berries at the moment. Grandma used to call it Pimbina. Some apparently love it especially with wild game . I made jam with it and gave it away to others who loved it! It grows well in wild here Gatineau area especially near water and often I’ve noticed near wildgrape. Look up first nations cooking and how they used it. In Spring, I’ve found dried berries on branch quite sweet!
If you are in the area you are welcome tompick.
My Mom called them Pembinas too. I remember the stinky smell in the kitchen, when we returned from school. But the jelly was so good on toast, the next morning.
Is there anyone who wouldn’t mind to send me some seedlings? Would love to grow a few as an edible fence. Zone 7a.
I’m not sure where this idea of smelling bad comes from for the wild high-bush cranberrys. I love the smell of the bushs in the air after the first frosts in the fall. My mom always made jelly with the berrys to have with turkey and we ate it on toast as well. The ripe berrys are basicly liquid, we used to pinch shoot them at each other as kids ( to my mind it tasted more like liquid rhubarb more than anything else, really tart) with an oval seed I’ve read in the last while( bad bad girl I was looking up recipes to make a liqueur from them, yes you can, make sure you look for ‘wild high-bush’ or you get recipes for regular cranberrys)that the seeds are just a bit chewy but fully edible. My mom used to cook them up on low with a lid, with a tiny bit of water till they burst and then she would squeeze through a cloth and then add sugar etc. I think she modified a grape jelly recipe adding more sugar but I’m not absolutely sure.
one of the best informative blog ever .bookmarked for the future read
Thank you so much!!!!
I am in Nova Scotia, looking for high bush cranberry to grow. Any ideas where i can get cuttings or 2-3 babies?