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The wide range of berries, wild and home grown, in Interior Alaska

Interior Alaska is home to a wide variety of both wild and home-grown berries just ripe for the...
Interior Alaska is home to a wide variety of both wild and home-grown berries just ripe for the picking.(ktvf)
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 3:36 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Interior Alaska is home to a wide range of different berries that one can find in the wild or even grow at home.

According to Heidi Rader, Associate Professor of Extension for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the sheer variety of berries is quite staggering. “There are so many different types of berries that grow wild here in Interior Alaska, as well as [ones] you can grow in your own backyard. Right now is really the peak season for harvest for a lot of those berries. Raspberries, currants, gooseberries, honey berries, strawberries, those are some of the types of berries you can grow in your backyard. In the wild you got raspberries, blueberries, currants as well, high bush cranberries, and service berries.”

Rader also pointed out that there are many delicious and fun uses for these berries as well. “You can make jam with those berries, you could make syrup, of course you can make pies, or just eat a lot of those fresh. Some have a large seed like high bush cranberries, so you actually have to get those seeds out before you can eat them. They are just so healthy for you, full of vitamin C, so it’s a great thing to grow in your backyard. Kids of course love to pick berries and so do I.”

While many berries can be found in the wild, a good number of them can be grown at home. However, the requirements vary from plant to plant according to Rader. “It kind of depends on the berry. Strawberries, for instance, they really like heat - so you can grow them as perennials and just let the patch grow wild. But you do need to prune the plants pretty regularly, and they’ll be a lot more productive if you can grow them in plastic or even inside of what’s called a hoop house or a high tunnel. But other berries like raspberries, they will take over your yard if you’re not careful - so they’re easy to grow in one sense, but they’re not so easy to control. Most berry bushes, you need to prune for the best production - so learning how to prune different types of berries is a big part of it.”

Rader also explained that one should conduct some research to be well informed on which berry varieties grow best in the Interior. Unlike vegetables, where you’re usually planting from seed, for most berry plants you’re going to start it with a plant. So, for strawberries you can actually buy a bundle of plants from a greenhouse or somewhere online, and for a lot of berry plants you’re going to want to start with the bush or the plant. You want to make sure that you buy the right variety for Interior Alaska - so if you order online, you really need to do some research as to which varieties grow best, and at Extension we have all that information.”

Meanwhile, with many berries just waiting to be picked, Rader says there are plenty of great picking locations
across the Borough.“Of course right now is a great time to go pick blueberries. You want to look for places where there’s a lot of tundra, or a recently burned place is also good. That really helps prune the bushes naturally. A lot of popular places are Ski Land or Nordale Road, Wickersham Dome and Murphy Dome.”

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