Scientific name: Gaultheria shallon Pursh
Family name: Ericaceae (heather family)
Salal is a creepy to erect shrub native to North America. Salal grows from 0.2 to 3 meters tall. It is an evergreen plant with leathery leaves. The fruits are purple-black berries.
FOOD AND MEDICINAL USES
The berries of Salal were used in many places on the Northwest Coast. Salal was considered one of the most important and plentiful for aboriginal peoples. They were used fresh or dried into cakes for winter and celebrations. Salal berries used to be traded and sold to First Nations in the interior British Columbia. They were mixed with other berries such as currants and elderberries. Salal berries were also used to sweeten other foods. The leafy branches of the shrub were used in pit cooking, and cooked as a flavoring in fish soup.
Nowadays, Salal berries are turned into jams and preserves and ripe berries are eaten fresh.
Aboriginal people also used Salal leaves as cups by shaping the leaves into a cone.
- The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations ate the berries ripe dipped in oolichan grease during feasts and celebrations.
- The Haida First Nations used Salal berries to thicken salmon eggs.
- The Ditidaht used young Salal leaves as hunger suppressants by chewing on them.
LOCATION IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Salal can be found everywhere within the Pacific Northwest, from coniferous forests, rocky bluffs to the sea shore. It is usually found at low to medium elevation.
LOCATION IN UBC
Salal can be found in the UBC Botanical Garden and in the Pacific Spirit Forest.
For more information on salal, visit E-flora:
E-Flora BC. (2013). Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia. Available at: http://www.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/.
Pojar, J., and Mackinnon, A. (1994). Plants of coastal British Columbia: Including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Publishing.
Darren Giles (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/Salal_berries.jpg
Eduardo Jovel. Personal collection.
Wing-Chi Poon [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Salal_%28Gaultheria_shallon%29_Leaf_and_Flowers.jpg