Most wild berries and fruits are hand-picked, although some experienced berry pickers use small rakes to speed up picking (Thomas and Schumann 1993). At present, little information is available about the commercial harvest of wild berries and fruits. No data exist on the money paid to harvesters, the number of people employed, channels of distribution or product markets.
All forest regions in the province report extensive personal use of local fruits and berries. Table 10 describes each type of fruit and berry harvested, giving species, product or use, and market. The fruits and berries of all 31 species are harvested on a personal basis; seven species are known to be harvested on a commercial basis.
Many wild berries and fruits are used fresh in baking products. The most popular application for wild blueberries, for example, is making blueberry muffins. Besides baked goods, other products or uses include jelly, jam, preserves, butter, juice, pie fillings, salad dressing, syrup, sauce, candy, wine, cider and even beer (Thomas and Schumann 1993).
Table 10 indicates that commercial harvest occurs for only seven types of fruits and berries. Blueberries and huckleberries, for instance, have long been used by rural entrepreneurs in various products, including jams, jellies and syrups. New markets for specialty wild berry and fruit products are opening up in the United States, Europe and Japan (Macy 1990; Thomas and Schumann 1993).
Natural foods such as wild berries and fruits are fast becoming the choice for many North Americans. As consumers become more environmentally aware, they demand products that are convenient, environmentally friendly and provide health benefits.
Wild berry and fruit picking have a high recreational value. The opportunity for recreational experience may be just as important to some as the opportunity for picking natural foods. Thomas and Schumann (1993) explain that in Idaho during huckleberry season thousands of vehicles may pass through a berry-rich ranger district during a single weekend.
Harvesting in other jurisdictions
In 1993, the Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd. Saskatchewan Division and the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture and Food initiated a study to determine market opportunities for non-timber products in the Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd. forest management licence agreement. This study explored economic development and job creation opportunities related to non-timber forest products (Anonymous 1993).
The study showed that wild edibles, including berries and fruit, have market potential, but it reported a lack of information about product supply. The report thus recommended routine field identification and inventory of wild berry and fruit resources. It concluded that the demand for non-timber forest products, combined with an interest in inventorying Saskatchewan’s resources, represented an economic development opportunity.
U.S. Pacific Northwest
Schlosser and Blatner’s (1993) preliminary survey revealed little information about the wild berry and fruit sector of the botanical forest products industry. To date, there is no in-depth data for the industry. The authors report on speculation by industry participants that the value of commercial wild berry and fruit harvesting is much less significant than, for example, wild mushroom harvesting.
In certain parts of northern Idaho many visitors come to pick and then sell wild huckleberries to local buyers and local restaurants. Although wild huckleberry harvesting is a recreational and tourist activity, pickers can earn an average of $14 (U.S.) per gallon for huckleberries. Local restaurants purchase these huckleberries and then offer special huckleberry products for the tourist trade (Thomas and Schumann 1993).