Oregon Grape at Quaaout

Credit: Sharon Hanna

Last month I visited my friend Arlene Soloman, creator of the lush herb garden at Thompson-Rivers University as well as mastermind of the new food garden at Quaaout Lodge where the restaurant is endeavouring to practice the 100-mile diet.

What a pleasure it was to discover this hedge of Mahonia (Oregon Grape) laden with fruit. I had never seen so many berries – hopefully it doesn’t portend an extra-cold winter ☺

We proceeded to pick the berries gingerly. Mahonia is almost as prickly as holly, so it was not without minor injury, but well worth it. Our picking yielded a large box of berries.

It was easy enough to get the berries off the stems and into a pot and adding a little water. But boy, do these berries stain – they’d make great natural dye.

A brief conversation with herbalist Elaine Stephens was well-timed – she’d made Mahonia jelly and used white wine, so I poured in a little Gewurtztraminer, half an orange cut up as well as the requisite cups of sugar.

There was lots of pectin in the berries so they needed only a bit of certo, and could probably have done without any. This jelly is delicious and will go well with savoury food like chicken, and be lovely with crackers and goat cheese!