Thimbleberry plants are shrubs that are unique to all but those on the west coast of the United States. It has edible and medicinal qualities and is attractive to a number of beneficial insects. Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is also known as salmonberry, and snow bramble and is native to North America (mostly West coast). It is a dense shrub with multiple, thornless stems or canes reaching heights of 7’. It likes moist soils but will tolerate drier sites and is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
The leaves are palmate up to 8 inches across with 5 lobes and have a soft and fuzzy texture.
Flowers are ¾” to 2.5” in diameter with five white petals and yellow stamens. It flowers between May and early July.
The fruit will ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. The berries turn from pink to scarlet when fully ripe. The very fast ripening fruit can go from hard and pink to soft and red in just a few hours. The fruit is an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a center core. When picked it leaves the center core behind like a raspberry does and it looks like a thimble. The fruit is smaller and softer than raspberries, causing it to not store or ship well and is not generally commercially produced.
Thimbleberry fruit is liked by honeybees, bumblebees, birds, and is host for the yellow banded sphinx butterfly.
I planted three thimbleberries at the farm last year in the food forest. They struggled, probably due to lack of water, but I’m pretty sure at least one of them survived into the winter. I’ll update this post in the spring and let you know if it survived through the winter.
Propagation – Thimbleberry Plants
Thimbleberry can spread via underground rhizome, seeds, tip layering, division, or stem cuttings. Thimbleberry plants can be propagated most successfully by planting dormant rhizome segments.
Seeds requires cold stratification for a month. Tip layering is best done in July. Division is best done in early spring.
Edible – Thimbleberry Plants
Thimbleberry fruit can be eaten raw, dried, or made into jam. Young shoots can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked. They can be cooked like asparagus. Fruits and shoots are rich in vitamin C.
Medicinal – Thimbleberry Plants
“The leaves are antiemetic, astringent, blood tonic and stomachic. An infusion is used internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery, anaemia, the spitting up of blood and to treat vomiting. An infusion has been taken by women when their periods are unusually long. A poultice of the dried powdered leaves has been used to treat wounds and burns. The leaves have been crushed and rubbed over the skin to treat pimples and blackheads. A poultice of the leaf ashes, mixed with oil, has been used to treat swellings. The young shoots are alterative and antiscorbutic. The roots are appetizer, astringent, stomachic and tonic. An infusion has been used by thin people to help them gain weight. An infusion has also been used in the treatment of stomach disorders, diarrhoea and dysentery. A decoction of the roots has been taken in the treatment of pimples and blackheads.” *
2 cups freshly picked thimbleberries
2 cups sugar
Do not wash the thimbleberries—pick them over to remove debris and insects. Mix the sugar and berries, then bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and seal at once.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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