By Janelle Eklund
It's a beautiful sunny day and, although the temperature hovers below 0°, I can feel the warmth of the sun on this mid-March day and my thoughts turn to a day last summer on the McCarthy road. I was out for my morning walk, greeting all the plants along the road, when I came across a single snowy white five petaled flower nestled on a bed of leathery toothed deep green leaves. There were only a few along the road not far from a peaceful little pond. If I had ventured closer to the pond maybe I would have seen more, as cloudberry like living in moist peaty wetlands and turfy grass.
Its botanical name, Rubus (Latin), means red. Chamaemorus is Greek. Chamai means 'brown' and morus means 'bramble'.
Eventually the snowy white petals fall to the ground and the center morphs into a berry that mimics the looks of a raspberry. Don't be fooled into thinking this fruit is ripe when it turns red. Much to the contrary, its redness means it's unripe. You know it's ready to pick when it becomes a plump soft deliciously golden yellow/orange color.
Both the leaves and the berries are medicinally endowed. And cloudberry and raspberry leaves have the same astringent medicinal qualities. The leaves can be boiled to make a tea which can help with menstrual cramps and diarrhea. A compress from the leaves can also be made for helping to heal weeping wounds. Just make sure if you do use the leaves that you use them either very fresh (not wilted) or completely dried. In the wilted or un-dried state they can be slightly toxic.
Flowers of this plant make a nice addition to a summer salad.
The berries, besides being a delight to the taste buds, are full of vitamin C and antioxidants. The plant is rich with Anthocyanins, which is a chemical substance in the plant that changes the colors of the leaves. In The Boreal Herbal it says "In humans, anthocyanins have the ability to fight free radicals in the body, and help fight disease caused by oxidative stress, which can cause premature aging."
Cloudberrys contain benzoic acid which is a natural preservative, so when stored fresh in a cool place it will last a long time - that is if you can refrain from putting their juicy goodness in your mouth very often. They can also be frozen, juiced, and made into jam or jelly.
Welcome the returning warmth of the sun, dream of green summer days, and in your mind taste the fruits of the suns labor.
From my light to yours-
References: The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray; Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.