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Outdoor fruits ripening fast

Jennifer Obleman
Northern News Services
Friday, August 3, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Whether it's strawberry shortcake or blueberry pie that tempts your sweet tooth, the North is a berry tasty place to be this time of year.

Local wild berries have a special tang to them, said Yellowknife Chef Pierre LePage.

"I like the tart cranberries and saskatoons, especially the cranberries. They're very small and very tart. They're very nice for cooking," he said.

LePage uses local berries in some of the dishes he serves in his Yellowknife restaurants, including the Wildcat Cafe, where the menu includes saskatoon pancakes, cranberry cheesecake and a muskox and cranberry dish.

A variety of local wild berries are ripe for the picking - or will be soon.

Raspberries are ripe and ready now, according to Yellowknife resident and avid berry picker Edith Mair.

"Before that downpour, I went up to Niven Lake for an hour and a half and picked three-and-half-pounds of raspberries. They're really ripe right now," she said.

After the rain, they were even more ripe, she added, noting it's best to pick raspberries in dry weather.

Black currants and blueberries are just ripening now. Mair has already gone on one blueberry expedition, taking home a crop of berries to make into jam.

Gooseberries should be ready in about three weeks. Cranberries will be ready in the fall.

"They (cranberries) even can be good with just a touch of frost," said Mair. "Last year was a tremendous year for cranberries. This year I haven't seen any flowers yet. I don't think it's going to be as good a year for cranberries."

Local naturalist Joachim Obst is also concerned about this year's cranberry crop. Dry weather before the recent rains made for poor growing conditions, he said.

"Last year was amazing for cranberries. The plants were just loaded with big ones, but now there's hardly any on and the ones that are on are little. The rain came too late," said Obst.

The dry growing season was likely also bad for the cloudberries and strawberries, he added, though he noted raspberries are doing well.