Manzanita berries

topic posted Tue, November 27, 2007 - 12:40 PM by  maria pureza
Having lived in the Sierra foothills for 4 years, at elevations from 2500-4000 ft, I have developed an appreciation for manzanita berries. The green ones are delicious and taste like green apples, and the red ones taste like tamarind. They are juicy when green, and when they turn red you suck them and spit out the seeds. However...

This year they were HORRIBLE. Ok when green but the red berries were like sawdust. Literally. No flavor whatsoever. I'm wondering what the cause was. My thoughts are:

1. The dry winter last year.

2. In the new place we live the manzanita is a pioneer species. There is no topsoil, no mulch. Just hard red clay. I think it was all cleared maybe 15 years ago. Everywhere else we've lived the land has either not been too disturbed or has had plenty of time to recover.

Any ideas?
posted by:
maria pureza
  • Re: Manzanita berries

    Tue, December 4, 2007 - 4:25 PM
    Alot of the manzanita problem is that they need lots of water. Without a lot of snow or rain, the soil doesn't retain water so the berries become bitter and pithy.
  • Re: Manzanita berries

    Sat, January 5, 2008 - 2:36 PM
    I was told that local native Americans would make an alcoholic drink out of Manzanita berries
    • Re: Manzanita berries

      Thu, January 10, 2008 - 12:39 PM
      it's called aye, and i don't think it was alcoholic. my little book says it's unfermented... anyway, they pounded the berries into flour, then put the meal on a winnowing basket and poured water through it till the flavor was gone. i've always wanted to make it. i imagine it would be pretty easy to ferment it into hard cider... yum!
      • Re: Manzanita berries

        Sat, March 8, 2008 - 3:38 PM
        I am going to do alot of expermenting around with manzanita berries this year. I will post what i find.
        • Re: Manzanita berries

          Mon, March 17, 2008 - 5:14 PM
          When I was in California, I spent alot of time in Volcano, Grinding Rock State Park, a little town by Jackson sorta close to Sacramento...

          The Miwok Indians made a tea from the leaves and berries oooohhhh how wonderful the taste.. It was amazing.. They made lots of stuff from the manzanita brush as well.

          The wood is extremely hard so if one is to carve it, it has to be done when its green. They made small cakes from the mashed berries, baskets and numerous other things from the wood.. they were amazing in their ingenuity with this versatile plant. I think I recall that the elders told me that they even used the roots of the plant as well. The plant was also used as a dye for raw material for baskets, and other things.

          The leaves and berries were also used as medicine, for poison oak, poison ivy and urinary infections. But they are high in tannic acid so will irritate the kidneys and the stomach after a few days if too much tea is drank.. A tea made from the leaves is great for re-acidifying the urine tho. Just a cup or two mixed with some cranberry juice and that will do the trick.
          • Re: Manzanita berries

            Tue, March 18, 2008 - 11:44 AM
            And the flowers! The flowers are blooming! So delicious... I love love love spring!

            What in the world did the Miwok do with the roots? There are like, no roots! Just this teeny little root ball that you can pull up with your bare hands. I think that's how they survive in such shallow soil. I'm not saying they couldn't have done anything with them, I just can't wrap my head around a use. Except maybe a fire accelerator- it burns really fast and hot and will actually crack a woodstove if you try to burn too much but I can imagine throwing a couple a root balls in a bonfire to really get it cranking. But I don't have hundreds and hundreds of years of accumulated experience and wisdom...
            • Re: Manzanita berries

              Tue, March 18, 2008 - 11:47 AM
              Oh, and also, can you expand on the poison oak cure? As a wash? Or a tea? I wonder if that's how the Miwok made freakin baskets out of poison oak? (I've always been blown away by that!)
              • Re: Manzanita berries

                Tue, March 18, 2008 - 5:21 PM
                They made an infusion (tea) with the leaves for poison oak..

                I think the root ball was used for fires for cooking or baking or something like that.. as well as the dried wood.. it burns very hot.. but if mixed with other wood will cook something thats deep pitted really well. They used cottonwood for cooking as well. The Miwok are a very very industrius ppl.. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to speak with their elders as often as I could.

                I took a trip last Sept. back to Grinding Rock and went in to the sweat lodge. One of the women there was the same one who taught me how to make pine needle baskets.. She's still alive and doing well. She's an amazing basket maker.

                She also taught me about western tamarak leaves. The young needles off the Western Larch (Tamarac) are packed with vitamin C and numerous other vitamins to aid in a spring tonic. They taste "green" they are packed full of chloraphil as well.

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