Native to the Pacific Northwest, Salmonberries and Thimbleberries grow along the roadsides, near streams, around forested areas and campgrounds. When growing, the plants of both look like raspberry bushes, until they start to blossom and bear fruit. I have picked and eaten my share of both salmonberries and thimbleberries, but I never knew which was which. So I had to do a little investigating, here is what I found…
Starting in May, the remarkable bright pink flowers start to appear on the salmonberry bushes. Higher elevations can see the flowers later into the summer months. Each flower forms a single berry and will take several weeks to ripen. The salmonberry fruit is the shape and relatively close size to the raspberry but it can have either red or yellow fruit. Usually you will find patches that are red berries right next to patches that have yellow berries.
In a blindfold taste test, I would not be able to distinguish between the red and yellow berries, but the red ones seem to fall apart a little easier than the yellow ones do.
The thimbleberry also starts blooming in May, but has white blossoms and a more open flower with a wide center where the berry will grow.
The berries have much smaller seeds and are more fragile than the salmonberry. The fruit grows in a small, wide pin cushion shape. The flavor is like a mild raspberry.
The fruit from both the salmonberry and the thimbleberry are delicious when made into jam, cobblers and wine. I have never been able to pick enough to do any of these things. They are delicious right off the bush, and that is a good thing because I never have a solid container on me when I stumble on a trove of the berries. My hat is usually the most obvious choice to carry the fruit that crushes easily, so I stick with fresh only.