Gaultheria shallon

salal, wintergreen

Salal is a common shrub in drier coniferous understories. The plant varies from creeping to erect, with considerable variation in height (up to 0.5 m tall). The leaves are green throughout the year and are shiny, egg-shaped, and leathery. Flowers are white to pinkish and bell or urn-shaped, turning to reddish-blue to dark purple berries. These edible berries are 6-10 mm in width.

Cultural Narrative: 

Galtuerhia shallon berries are juicy and were some of the most prolific berries available for many Northwest Coast communities. They could be eaten either fresh, pounded and dried into cakes, mixed with grease, or even mixed with other berries. They were also frequently used to sweeten other dishes.

Other parts of the plant were used for either food or food preparation. The leaves may be used to stem off hunger or folded into a drinking vessel. The leafy branches can be used in earth oven cooking or as a soup flavoring. 

The leaves  have an astringent effect and can be used as an anti-inflammatory medicine.

Location Description: 

Salal is found primarily west of the Cascades within dry coniferous forests, and occaisonally rocky bluffs and wetter places. These plants often grow in dense thickets.