In this rushed and shriveled Pacific Northwest summer, I race to catch up with the salmonberries.
They're almost gone now. If you're in the Northwest and haven't stopped for one, you'd best get into the woods or thickets today.
Some botanical names both inform and sing. I'll never enjoy saying Pseudotsuga menziesii for douglas-fir, but my mouth loves saying Rubus spectabilis almost as much as it loves tasting them. (Rubus is the genus of raspberries and blackberries, so this is the spectacular Rubus, which it is).
Flamboyance is rare in the deep, dark woods, but salmonberries are as individual as drag queens. Each bush produces berries of its own distinct color. They're all somewhere on a spectrum from yellow to purple, but in any thicket, the sameness of each bush's berries stands out against its neighbors. It's a nice effect when the bushes are all tangled up in each other, like lovers refusing to dissolve into oneness. Darker colors develop from a yellow base that remains in the interior, so that darker berries appear to be glowing from within.
Ripeness has nothing to do with color; hikers who don't know this tend to leave the tasty yellow ones. Instead, ripeness is signalled only by fullness, and a tendency to begin very gradually coming loose, hanging evocatively from the mount, ready to break free. The sense of availability is almost erotic.
Opinions on taste differ, but I seem to have enough inter-sensory links that I can taste visual beauty up to a point. The sight of a salmonberry going into my mouth must affect my taste of it. To me, those little green hairs on each drupe are just a nice bit of fiber, and the taste seems to glow from within, as the berry does.