The high bush cranberry, or Viburnum opulus var. americanum, is a deciduous shrub that thrives in wetlands, woodlands, and along streams. While it can tolerate a range of conditions, it particularly flourishes in well-drained, moist soils. In Alberta, the high bush cranberry is a familiar sight, especially in the province's northern and central regions. Its clusters of white flowers in spring evolve into shiny red berries by fall, providing visual appeal and serving as an essential food source for various wildlife.
Indigenous communities in Alberta have long valued the high bush cranberry for its medicinal and nutritional properties. The berries have traditionally been used to treat ailments such as digestive issues and fever. Beyond their medicinal uses, they've also played a role in Indigenous ceremonies and stories. As settlers arrived in Alberta, they too recognized the value of this native shrub, incorporating it into their diets and local traditions.
The bright red berries of the high bush cranberry are as versatile in the kitchen as they are tart on the palate. They can be transformed into delightful jellies, jams, and sauces. In Alberta, they are often paired with game meats, offering a tangy counterbalance to richer flavours. They can also be blended into smoothies, baked into pies, or even brewed into wines or liqueurs. For Indigenous communities, these berries have traditionally been dried for use in pemmican or mixed with other berries in various dishes. The slightly bitter undertones of the high bush cranberry make it a unique ingredient, and when sweetened or paired with other flavours, its culinary potential truly shines.