Wildly delicious: getting to know some of the province's lesser-known berries


With berry picking season coming up, I thought I'd write something about the wild berries of Newfoundland and Labrador – a way to familiarize myself with the berries of this province, and as inspiration to get out there and pick, when the time comes! We have a lot of berries on offer throughout the province – probably the best way to get to know where the berries are in your area is to ask someone you know who picks them, a grandparent or elder, maybe, or a co-worker, or friend.

You might be familiar with some of the more commonly picked berries in the province: blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and partridgeberries.

The following are some of the (perhaps) lesser known berries: crowberry, Chuckley pear, bakeapple and marshberry.

I'm using information, as well as the landscape classification, from Peter J. Scott's Edible Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador to help identify these berries, as well as where you might more commonly see them. Additional information comes from Trees & Shrubs, Newfoundland and Labrador by Todd Boland (who, if you're interested in learning more, is hosting an Edible Plant Hike, focusing mainly on berries, on August 17 at MUN's Botanical Garden).

Caution: If there is any doubt about the plant you've found, don't eat it! Much better safe than sorry. It is also good practice to go first with someone who knows the berries and the area. Ask around! There should be someone to take you out walking. And as always when trying new foods, try a little bit at a time to see how your body reacts. For more information about foraging, wild edibles, and safety, please see FSN's Edible Wild Plants Food Skills Workshop.


Heaths Heaths are full of low-growing plants, “found on windswept headlands and hills.” [1]

Crowberry Empetrum nigrum L. These dark bluish-black berries grow on plants with “rod-shaped” leaves having a white line along the bottom which make “dense mats about 10-15 centimetres thick.” [2] Though "juicy," [3] Scott writes that they don't have a very interesting flavour, but can nevertheless be used for “wine or […] pudding.” [4]

Crowberries grow all over the province. A pink variety (Empetrum eamesii) (with a pink-red berry) and a purple variety (Empetrum atropurpureum) (with a purple red-berry) grow on the island and up to the Labrador Strait. [5] They ripen in late July. [6]




Clearings Areas clear of trees in the forest. [7]

Chuckley Pear Amelanchier bartramiana (Tausch) Roemer. You might know this fruit by a few other names – such as “Juneberry, Shadbush, Serviceberry [or] […] Wild Pear.” It grows on “shrubs or small trees ranging in height from 1 to 3 metres.” [8]

They produce a reddish-purple or red fruit (depending on the variety), which are about 1.5 cm across and have a “crown,” similar to those found on blueberries. [9] They are sweet and, Scott suggests, “can be stewed” with sugar. [10] They're also good for baking with, drying (to eat "like raisins"), or making "jam." [11]

They grow as far north as Turnavik and start ripening in late July. [12]



Caution: If “rusty orange finger-like fruiting bodies” are present, the plant has Cedar Apple Rust. The berries are no longer edible. [13]

 Cedar rust


Peatlands The bogs - “dominated by Sphagnum, a moss similar to sponge.” [14]

Bakeapple Rubus chamaemorus L.

Also known as Cloudberry, this low-growing plant with “five-lobed leaves” [15] produces one orange berry ( "[that] resembles a raspberry") per plant. [16] They are a soft berry which make good sauces, jams and wines. [17] A recipe for bakeapple jam can be found here. [18]

They are found all over the province and ripen in mid-August to September. [19]



Marshberry Vaccinium oxycoccus L.

[video width="320" height="240" mp4="http://rootcellarsrock.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Marshberries-DAI.mp4"][/video]

Source:  Marshberries: Berry picking with Bridget Jacobs, Joe Batt’s Arm (Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative).

The marshberry (otherwise known as the Small Cranberry) are "bright red" when ripe (and "speckled purple-brown" beforehand). [20] They grow on a low evergreen plant. [21] They have better flavour once frost-bitten. The berry can be found at the end of the long thin stems. [22] They make "best jam  you can eat,” according to Bridget Jacobs.  [23]

They grow as far north as Makkovik [24] and are ripe in late October. [25]

 Marshberries unripe

Unripe berries, Source


Ripe berries, Source

If berry-eating is something you enjoy, many berry festivals will be in full swing around the province in the coming months. Take a gander!

Bakeapple Folk Festival in Forteau, Labrador Straits from August 8-11 Brigus Blueberry Festival in Brigus on the Avalon Peninsusa, August 7-10 Deer Lake Strawberry Festival, in Deer Lake, Western Newfoundland from July 19-21 Fogo Island Partridgeberry Harvest Festival in Central Fogo, Fogo Island, Central Newfoundland from October 11-12 Garnish Bakeapple Festival, in Garnish on the Burin Peninsula, August 4-10 St. George's Blueberry Festival, in St. George's, Western Newfoundland, August 2-3.


Further Resources:


Edible Plants of Newfoundland and Labrador by Peter J. Scott Trees & Shrubs, Newfoundland and Labrador by Todd Boland A Summary Account of the Wildberries and other Edible Fruits by the Rev. D. Arthur C. Waghorne - an older guidebook, interesting as a historical artifact, rather than as a guide (there are no pictures, and the author is just getting to know the local plants – not very well)


A Digital Natural History of Newfoundland and Labrador USDA Plants Database

Blog Posts

The Amazing Serviceberry by Nan K. Chase Berrypicking on the East Coast Trail by Sander A Review of Crowberry Wine (not entirely serious) from The Scope archives Watchwords: “Bakeapple” one of many linguistic delights by Mark Abley A Taste of the Wild Side by Costa Kasimos (on wild edibles generally)


Blueberries and Marshberries: Berry picking with Bridget Jacobs, Joe Batt’s Arm from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Project at MUN’s Digital Archives Initiative Marshberries: Berry picking with Bridget Jacobs, Joe Batt’s Arm from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Project at MUN’s Digital Archives Initiative



[1] Scott 1. [2] Scott 5. [3] Boland 50. [4] Scott 5. [5] Boland 46-49. [6] Scott 5. [7] Scott 15. [8] Scott 25. [9] Boland 122. [10] Scott 25. [11] Chase, The Amazing Serviceberry. [12] Scott 25. [13] Scott 25. [14] Scott 71. [15] Scott 77. [16] Boland 246-247. [17] Scott 77. [18] Buckley, Bakeapple Jam. [19] Boland 246-247. [20] Boland 228-229. [21] Boland 228-229. [22] Scott 75. [23] Marshberries: Berry picking with Bridget Jacobs, Joe Batt’s Arm. [24] Boland 228-229. [25] Boland 228-229.