Foraging from nature; Bunchberries

Cornus canadensis.
Cornus canadensis is a slow-growing herbaceous subshrub growing 10–20 cm tall, generally forming a carpet-like mat. The above-ground shoots rise from slender creeping rhizomes that are placed 2.5–7.5 cm deep in the soil, and form clonal colonies under trees. The vertically produced above-ground stems are slender and unbranched. The leaves are oppositely arranged on the stem, but are clustered with six leaves that often seem to be in a whorl because the internodes are compressed. The leafy green leaves are produced near the terminal node and consist of two types: 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves. The smaller leaves develop from the axillary buds of the larger leaves. The shiny dark green leaves have 2 to 3 mm long petioles and leaf blades that are obovate. The blades have entire margins and are 3.5 to 4.8 cm long and 1.5 to 2.5 cm wide, with 2 or 3 veins and cuneate shaped bases and abruptly acuminate apexes. In the fall, the leaves have red tinted veins and turn completely red.

That's the name of this little plant that lays low on the forest floor.  In Spring or Early Summer here in Northern Alaska the plants bloom with little white flowers.
 By mid August the flowers have given way to little red berries.


This past August, someone who was visiting the Fairbanks and North Pole area put out an ad on a local Facebook group. She was looking for bunchberries to bring back down to the lower 48.  Since I knew we had tons of these in our yard I jumped right on this. My son ended up making an easy $8 and I got to learn about yet another useful item in our yard.
As I researched about these tiny, seemingly unremarkable berries, I found that while they don't taste like much, they can be used in jams or jellies as pectin to help thicken the jam or jelly and help it set.
Now, I do have to admit, jams and jellies are not my forte.  I simply make them because fruits are easy to come by, my son likes jelly with his peanut butter and I don't want to resign ourselves to buying the junk that is called jelly or jam at the grocery store.  Plus many times I can use jams and jellies to barter with others for meat or fish, especially if we haven't had time to go fishing or hunting ourselves.
So, last year, after we had harvested several pounds for the lady from the lower 48, I went out with a bowl and picked a good amount for ourselves.  I brought them in, washed them and then threw them into my Excalibur dehydrator.  About a day later they were fully dehydrated and crispy so then I used a food processor and turned them into a dry powder.
 Into the mason jar they went and stayed.  Until March 4th, 2017 when I made rhubarb ginger jam and blueberry lime jam.
They did an awesome job thickening the jams, so much so that I didn't even have to use store bought pectin.
As anyone knows who processes their own jellies or jams, pectin is not cheap so knowing I have my own pectin, here on my own property is like finding gold.  I know this year, this will be yet another thing I intend to harvest, from my own property in an effort to avoid the grocery store and of course, to save a little money!

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