Thimbleberry is a unique bramble native to the Western states with clusters of sweet red fruits, white star-shaped flowers, and big velvety maple-like leaves.
Thimbleberries are native food prized for their bright red berries that ripen in summer. They have a sweet and unique taste all their own (especially those grown in full sun), with a pleasant crunchy texture from the tiny seeds in each drupelet. A delicious summer treat, or great for jellies.
Young spring shoots are also quite tasty. They are first peeled, and then eaten raw or cooked like asparagus.
This plant was widely used by Native American groups for both food and a myriad of medicinal uses, including skin and digestive ailments. Both berries and shoots are rich in Vitamin C and A.
The combination of soft maple-shaped leaves (turning golden yellow in Fall), large pure-white flowers, and pink to red berry clusters makes Thimbleberries a desirable ornamental plant for the home garden. Healthy plants slowly spread to form patches, like Raspberries, making them great around garden edges or as a view break. One of the only in the Rubus genus without thorns. Thimbleberries look beautiful alongside Blackcap Raspberry and Salmonberry.
Environment and Culture
Thimbleberries’ wild home is along rivers, forest edges, roadsides, and disturbed open areas throughout the Western states. It prefers moist areas, but can be found growing in the drier Eastern part of our region, as well. The berries are a huge hit with wildlife, especially birds, but also foxes, racoons, squirrels, and other rodents. The flowers are nectar for butterflies and the young leaves are popular with deer. A great wildlife plant.
Thimbleberry is very low-maintenance and vigorous, especially if planted in a moist and sunny area. Vigorous root system can be used to stabilize banks and prevent erosion.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Harvest berries by hand when fully red and soft. They should be soft to the touch and slide easily off the core. They are fragile when collecting and can be eaten fresh, dried, or made into preserves.
Young shoots should be harvested when still tender, lightly skinned, and cooked like asparagus. Only harvest one or two per plant per year (wait till you have a patch). Steam and serve as a side, or chop and mix in a vegetable stir-fry. Enjoy!