Juiced up


Northerners go out in droves during the late summer and early autumn to their sacred—and sometimes secret— spots to gather enough wild berries to keep healthy through the long boreal winters. Boreal berries and herbs are packed with nutrients and complex taste sensations that make for delicious juices and smoothies any time of the day or year.

The simplest and quickest way to make a nutritious, raw juice is to combine fresh or frozen berries in a blender with cold water or a cooled herbal tea. Then simply pour, drink, and enjoy. I like to keep the berry pulp in the juice, which means not gulping it down, but chewing each mouthful. If this doesn’t appeal to you, just strain out the pulp. Adding a squeeze of lemon will enhance the taste and help preserve the juice a little longer.

Raw juices are the most healthful of beverages, but they do not last that long. When made in a blender, the juice will last a couple of days in the fridge. If you’re not going to drink the juice quickly, freeze it in portion-sized containers or make homemade fruit-sicles with it.

Basic Raw Berry Juice Recipe
Any of the boreal wild berries can be used. Mix and match for new and interesting juices. Imagine moss berry-raspberry juice. Yum!

1 cup (250 ml) berries (frozen work best)
2 cups (500 ml) cold water or cooled herbal tea
2 tbsp. (30 ml) sweetener (honey, birch syrup, cane sugar, or deseeded dates all work great)
Juice of one lemon

1) Place the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. (This usually takes about two minutes.)
2) Pour, drink, and enjoy the antioxidant goodness in each sip. Strain if you don’t want the pulp.

I love having wild juices stacked up in the fridge; one of my family’s all-time favourites is wild cranberry juice. Because the juice is heated, it lasts for a couple of weeks in the fridge—that’s if you don’t drink it all first.

Most northerners gather wild cranberries, also known as lingonberries or lowbush cranberries, from the low mat-forming shrub in early autumn, after the first frost. The frost brings out this northern fruit’s tangy flavour sensations. Bursting with colour and zest, wild cranberries are one of the most recognized berries in the North. Wild cranberries are smaller and tangier than commercial cranberries, and pack a greater taste.

Cranberries—also known as natl’at in Gwich’in—can be dried, frozen, or kept in a cool cache over the winter months due to their benzoic-acid content that acts as a natural preservative.

Nutritionally, the berries are filled with calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as small amounts of protein and vitamins A and C. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Cranberries contain high concentrations of antioxidants and flavonoids that can help lower blood-sugar levels and benefit the cardiovascular and immune systems. Its antiseptic properties make the berry good for preventing and treating urinary-tract infections. Wild cranberry juice is touted for its ability to prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from binding to the wall of the bladder and for creating an inhospitable environment for infection.

Cranberries stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, so it’s good to have a handful before a meal. You can also add cranberry sauce to your meats to help with heartburn or indigestion.

Cranberry Juice
Recipe inspired by long-time Yukoner MaryJane Lawson.

2 cups (500 ml) wild cranberries
(or any boreal berry)
8 cups (2,000 ml) water
A large dollop of honey to taste (optional) A pinch of cinnamon spice

1) Bring water to a boil. Add cranberries and simmer until the cranberries split open (about 20 minutes).
2) Stir in honey and cinnamon.
3) Take off heat and let rest for a few hours until cooled down.
4) Strain out cranberries (save the berries to make fruit leather, put in smoothies, or to make jam or sauce with) and pour the juice into bottles or a juice container and refrigerate.

A fruit-and-yogurt smoothie is a wonderful thing. Packed full of goodness, flavour, and nutrients, the health benefits of smoothies are as diverse as the many ingredient combinations used to create them. Kids love them, too. Frozen wild berries are a great foundation for a smoothie.

Pink Drink: High-C Smoothie
This tastes great all year round, but it’s especially beneficial during cold and flu season.

1 cup (250 ml) cranberries (frozen)
1 cup (250 ml) rosehip tea
1/4 cup lamb’s quarters seeds (fresh or dried)
1/4 cup (approx. 50 ml) spruce tips (fresh, frozen, or dried)
1 cup (250 ml) yogurt
1 cup (250 ml) cow, rice, soy, or almond milk

Place the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. (This usually takes about two minutes.)

Note: If the consistency is too thick, add more liquid; if it’s too thin, add more frozen fruit.

“Fable says that cranberry is a cure for heartache, but far more prosaically the sauce wards off scurvy.” – Martha Louise Black, Yukon Wild Flowers (1940)

The flavour sensations, aromas, and nutritional value of wild berries make them the perfect ingredients for healthy raw juices and smoothies. Wild plant juices and smoothies are a great way to start the day and are excellent for your health. All you need is a blender to get started!


Considered an antioxidant super-fruit, wild blueberries have very favourable health benefits, including claims of fighting certain stresses that can lead to chronic illness and premature aging. The antioxidant activities of the wild blue fruit are said to be higher than those of many other fruits, including apples, raspberries, red grapes, and strawberries.

Antioxidants are beneficial for heart health because they help control the bad cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease. They may also help regulate blood pressure and fight atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup inside the arteries.

Blueberries are also touted as having excellent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. Laboratory studies have provided evidence that consuming wild blueberries may help with eye fatigue and slow down, or even reverse, eye disorders, such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Eaten raw, made into tea, juiced, or eaten in foods, blueberries, like cranberries, contain chemical compounds that prevent the bacteria responsible for urinary-tract infections from attaching to the bladder wall. Traditionally, blueberry leaves were used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, such as diarrhea and upset stomach. All parts, including leaf and stem, may be useful for lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetes.

Rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium, fresh or frozen blueberries are a must for a morning smoothie.

Purple Smoothie

1 cup (250 ml) wild blueberries
1 cup (250 ml) yogurt
1 cup (250 ml) rice, almond, or soy milk

Put ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth. Serve and enjoy!


Moss berries have the highest levels of anthocyanins of any of the northern berries, according to research conducted at the University of Kuopio in Finland. This makes them extremely antioxidant-rich, so eating the berries will help combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body, assisting in the prevention of disease.

Moss berries also contain the compound quercetin that acts as a powerful antihis- tamine. It can relieve the symptoms of allergies, reduce inflammation, and pro- vide pain relief for aches, pains, and the symptoms of arthritis.

High in vitamin C, moss berries sweeten up with the first frost of the season. They can be used on their own or in combina- tion with other berries, like blueberries, to make pies, muffins, pancakes, syrup, sauce, or fruit leather.

Making a juice or adding the berries to a smoothie is a great way to benefit from all the goodness this unique northern berry offers.

Blueberry-Moss Berry Juice

Antioxidant power!

1 cup (250 ml) wild blueberries 1 cup (250 ml) wild moss berries 4 cups (1 L) cold water Sweetener to taste (optional) Juice of one orange

Place the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. (This usually takes about two minutes.)


This highly nutritious fruit is great when made into a juice, and no deseeding nec- essary! Very high in vitamin C and usable iron, rosehip juice is thick and delicious. The rosehips can be used fresh or dried.

Rosehip Juice

2 cups (500 ml) wild rosehips (dried or fresh)
8 cups (2,000 ml) water
A large dollop of honey to taste (optional)

1) Bring water to a boil, add rosehips, and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
2) Stir in honey.
3) Take off the heat and let rest for a few
hours until cooled down.
4) Strain out rosehips (save to make jelly with), pour the juice into bottles or a juice container, and refrigerate.