Salal – Gaultheria Shallon
Salal is an evergreen, coniferous shrub that can grow up to 3m. They can be found growing in woodlands and western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Salal grows best in rich, well-draining, acidic soil and prefers partial shade. It can be identified by its thick, leathered, oval-shaped leaves and white pinkish bell-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring. These flowers are soon replaced by edible, dark blue berries. These berries are edible by both humans and wildlife, often attracting birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. The berries were a staple in First Nations peoples who often ate them fresh or dried them to make sweets.
Height: 1-3 m
Other Uses: Y
Soil: Moist, peaty soil
Sun: Full sun to full shade
Usually found at: Coniferous forests, rocky bluffs, to the seashore. Low to medium elevations
Pollinators & wildlife: Bees, butterflies
Leaves: Shiny, leathery, oval leaves
Flowers: Small pinkish-white flowers
Berries: Dark purple-blue berries
First Nations uses: Salal is one of the most plentiful and important fruits for the northwest coast first nations people. Eaten both fresh and dried into cakes. The Kwakwaka’wakw ate the ripe berries dipped in oolichan grease at large feasts. For trading or selling, the salal berries were mixed with currants, elderberries, or unripe salal berries. The berries were also used to sweeten other foods and the Haida used salal berries to thicken salmon eggs. The young leaves were chewed as a hunger suppressant by the Ditidaht. The leafy branches were used in pit-cooking, and cooked as a flavouring in fish soup.