I lived in Alaska many years & the most common Viburnum there, called commonly highbush cranberry, is V. edule. It’s popularity is ‘right up there’ with raspberries,maybe even lingonberries (commonly also called 'lowbush cranberries there) . Of course nothing can match blueberries in AK!
I never made jam, etc. (but enjoyed others’!) but always enjoyed eating just one or two at a time - the taste is so ‘big’ that that was enough, so sort of magic for that reason alone. When the plants got that ‘wet dog’ smell in the fall, the fruit was just right!
So, now I’m back permanently in Upper MI, and V. edule is native at the other end (I’m EUP, WUP is ~300 miles away), and I’m interested in growing one or two in my garden/lot orchard (can’t remember if a pair needed). I don’t know as much about the other, more commonly available spp., like trilobum, etc. - but I want V. edule, (wet) doggone it!
To get thinking for fall '23 ordering maybe, does anybody know who offer cultivars maybe, or just the standard V. edule for sale? I suppose the alternative is having an AK contact send some fruit & go from there but I’m lazy & would prefer just buying some nice bare or potted little plants.
Of course I don’t have to mention here I don’t care about any cultivar for fancy flowers (as a lot of Viburnums seem to be)! The fruit is great so the flowers are good enough!
Taste isn’t (to my mind) like cranberry at all, the common name maybe based on the ‘look’ of the fruit. The V. edule are … very sour but not bitter, tart, very ‘big’ flavor, … (is all I can think of to describe it), well hard to describe a unique flavor in words. The more common ones may be similar; others I hope can say, but the ‘wet dog’ autumn V. edule from AK is to me perfect already so I don’t want to mess with perfection…
I’ve seen foraging books claim that opulus is more bitter and off flavored. I have a couple of trilobum here. I’m not crazy about them. The birds seem not too crazy about them either. They often hang until spring, by which time the flavor is a bit more agreeable. I’m fonder of hobblebush and nannyberry myself. More of a mushy plum butter flavor and consistency that I like.
I’m in Palmer Alaska. There seem to be two varieties, a short one that reproduces through the roots and a much taller one. When I hike in the spring I eat the ones from the year before that still hang on the bush, they taste a tad better after they freeze.
They are still waking up here. I could dig up a root for you, they should take off from there.
When I was a kid, we lived in Red Devil on the Kuskokwim River for a few years. I remember picking and eating ‘cranberries’. I know now that they weren’t actually cranberries, and when I read up on highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum), I thought that might be the plant I remembered and so I ordered one. But after tasting some last fall…these are not it.
I wonder if the ‘cranberries’ I remember were actually V. edule. Are you aware of any other shrub with edible red berries in the region? My memory is that they were tart, but flavorful. But it’s been more than 40 years since then!
Actually the ‘scientists’ are confused aggain it seem…they currently think the viburnum trilobum is a sub-species of viburnum opulus. (Most v.opulus in the nursery trade are sterile and do not fruit but have bigger blooms.)
That sure sounds like V. edule. There are other red berries - lingonberry/lowbush cranberry (Vaccinium vitus-idaea), ‘real’ cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), but they’re both low (<1’). V. edule is the only 1-2m red-berried edible fruit I can think of…
… and in the ussr/xussr (esp. Ukraine, belarus, Baltics, russia) they commonly grow & eat the fruit, called kalina/Калина in Ukrainian and russian, & even have cultivars. The main species is Viburnum opulus; there’s even a few good monographs/cultivation books published; e.g., Солодухин, Е. Д. (1985): Калина. Moscow: Лесная промышленность. Also:
which you can autotranslate if you don’t know russian.
Geez, forgot to mention the English wikipedia page for V. edule (though ignore that bit about ‘edible after seeds removed’ - never knew anybody to need to remove seeds in this, but other good info & references):
The V. opulus/kalina is a bit milder than the V. edule of Alaska… but also not a bad fruit. Surprised it’s not better known ‘here’. Perhaps it will at some point be promoted as the latest ‘superfood’…
I have some Ukrainian friends from Iron County. They gather them wild along the Paint River. They then mix them fresh with sugar and make something like a raw jam with them. They gave me a jar recently. I need to get the recipe. You mix a tablespoon with hot water, and it makes an excellent tea. (Although it does smell like wet dog.) Also, I believe Fruitwood Nursery from California has some inexpensive rooted cuttings of several selected varieties for sale.
wild highbush ( v. opulus) grow wild everywhere here. ive tried making jam from them but it wasnt good but ive never let them hang past frost . maybe that’s why the birds only eat them in winter. i have 4 very large bushes near the back of the house that are loaded every fall.
It’s not clear to me that trilobum and opulus are distinct or distinguishable. Respectfully I’d point out that with most of these fringe fruits, much info, taxonomic and otherwise, seems to regurgitated without having been evaluated thoroughly or at all.
A Russian friend was telling me about uses for kalina, which he visually ID’d as the Russian name for my NH state nursery sourced trilobum