Salal: Looks & Tastes Like Blueberries

salal1Today I was visiting Cathedral Park in the St. John’s neighborhood of North Portland when I spotted some salal berries planted, conveniently, right next to some equally ripe and edible Oregon grape berries. Lucky me, I ate them both and had a free wild snack.

Salal, Gaultheria shallon, is a shrub (or a bush) native to the Pacific Northwest. It has alternate, leathery-textured oval leaves and big round blue berries. It grows at low to mid elevations and is especially common in the forest understory and in Portland-area landscaping.

The berries are really good, similar to blueberries in flavor and appearance. The stems attached to the berries are red, making for high contrast with the fruit. In some areas, especially those at higher elevations, salal is still only just flowering. If you see it in that phase of its life, you’ll notice the flowers are whitish or pale pinkish and shaped like upside down cups. (See photo below).
Salal_(Gaultheria_shallon)_Leaf_and_Flowers

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6 thoughts on “Salal: Looks & Tastes Like Blueberries

  1. Hi Becky!
    Thanks for the Salal post. I recently took my boys out to the coast, and if you go to the Sea Lion Caves (or around there) there are whole hillsides densely covered with salal. It’s truly an impressive bounty! I like to eat them fresh too, but I also want to try to make some fruit leather with them. Local First Peoples ate them mixed with fish grease, which is intriguing!
    Forrest

  2. Hi Becky – I just moved into a house in SE PDX which has a salal plant. I picked a few of the purple berries and ate them for the first time last week. Some of them were as sweet as a ripe blueberry but they had a large seed inside. The house also has some blueberry plants, and I compared the taste/texture. I think the salal is smaller, mellower, fruitier, and sweeter than blueberries, but you have that seed to spit out. (my plant blog is at at little rosy things -http://thirdcity.wordpress.com/)

  3. Becky,
    I love this plant. It was nowhere to be found where I live in vancouver (at least not within walking distance with two kids under 5). So having a quarter acre lot I planted three salal bushes. Not too aggressive but it does rhizome like mad (pulls up and transplants easily). It is a fantastic low maintenance ground cover! In many ways it is the perfect plant. Glad you covered it.

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