As the summer wears on and the days are hot and muggy, it can be difficult to see in the good in this time of year for some. But have no fear, berry season is here! At Pawtuckaway State Park the berries are in full swing and there are plenty to go around.
Lots of visitors to the park know about the loads of blueberries you can find here, especially along the road up to the camp store. The blueberries have been ripening for a couple weeks now, but there are still plenty left on the bushes just waiting for foragers to pick them. There are two varieties of blueberries in the park, high bush and low bush. There are more high bush than there are low bush which makes them nice and easy to pick since they are mostly at eye level. The road by the store is not the only place you can find these delicious snacks however. Take a canoe or kayak out on the lake to one of Pawtuckaway’s many islands and you are bound to find lots more blueberry bushes as well. And if you are feeling a little more adventurous, there are plenty of lesser known blueberry patches scattered around the park waiting to be found by hungry hikers. The berries can vary in size and color, even from the same bush, so make sure they are ripe by giving them a small squeeze. If they are a little squishy and fall off the branch easily, they are good to go!
A close relative of the blueberry is the huckleberry, and the park is filled with them too! They can often be mistaken for low bush blueberries, but huckleberries are distinctly different from their tasty cousins. The huckleberry tends to be darker in color, almost black, and are almost perfect circles in shape. The best way to tell the difference between huckleberry and blueberry though is the crown. Huckleberries to not have a crown on the bottom the way blueberries do, but are edible nonetheless. Huckleberries are not as sweet as blueberries and have larger seeds, but many people prefer their taste over that of blueberries. These two berries can often be found growing close together, with huckleberry growing lower to the ground than the high bush blueberry. Huckleberries can be found in many of the same places the blueberries can be found in, including around the beach area and on some of the islands in the lake.
The fun doesn’t stop with just blue-colored berries though. Around the park there are small brambles of blackberries as well, and they have just started to become ripe now that it is early August. These berries are usually easy to spot on the bush since they are relatively large. They are also pretty easy to pick because they are at the ends of stems. You still will want to exercise some caution when picking though, as blackberry bushes have plenty of nasty thorns that can stick you as you try to grab a snack. Keep an eye out for these berries in disturbed areas such as roadsides and anywhere else there is some thick bramble brush.
Pawtuckaway State Park also has many patches of strawberries all around the park. Unfortunately, we are past strawberry season, as they usually ripen in the spring to early summer. But if you want to scope out some good spot to find strawberries next season, just look for three leaves that are low to the ground with ridges along the sides of the leaves. When they flower, the flower is white with five petals and is usually found right in the center of the three leaves.
As you head out into the wild to pick your own fresh berries, just remember to be careful and only pick something if you are absolutely sure you know what it is. There are lots of lookalike plants out there and some of them can be poisonous. Also please be respectful of other people and animals that would like to enjoy those berries too, and do not pick the bush clean. There are plenty of berries to go around, so no need to be greedy.
If you are interested in learning more about the edible plants in Pawtuckaway and around southern New Hampshire, be sure to drop by the camp store on Sunday mornings for my edible plants hike. We will cover the berries in this post, as well as lots of other plants that can be eaten and used in lots of different ways. So enjoy picking your fresh berries and remember to leave some for others, happy hunting!