Tart & bitter, the berries of Oregon grape are often overlooked, culinarily speaking. Create a rich Oregon grape and lemon curd for an amazing foraged treat! This delicious Oregon grape recipe is sure to excite everybody!
Sometimes when you are a kid, you’re told things that just aren’t true. Like that if you don’t go to sleep – Santa won’t come… If you eat watermelon seeds they will grow in your belly… Being a grown up is fun… And while those are outright lies (“adulting” is hard), some well-intentioned adults offer misinformation that stays with you. Like that the blue berries of the Oregon Grape are poisonous. They aren’t, actually – they just aren’t very tasty. However, even the humble, acidic and bitter berry can become the belle of the ball by way of Oregon Grape & Lemon Curd. This is the Cinderella of the foraged berry world.
Oregon Grape Identification & Medicinal Uses
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is the Oregon state flower. It is a landscape staple in municipal plantings west of the Cascades, its shiny foliage, yellow flowers and blue fruits acting as Mother Nature’s pretty, albeit treacherous, jewelry. While the name implies “grape” and the foliage screams “holly”, it is neither. A member of the barberry (Berberis) family, Oregon grape possess sharp, holly-like leaves making it a great, all natural burglary prevention landscape strategy – trust me, you don’t want to get into a tangle with this shrub. The core of the stems and roots is a bright yellow, owing its pigment and medicinal qualities to its berberine content. Oregon Grape root is a remarkable herb for a variety of reason – not the least of which is affordability and availability as many of its high berberine plant cousins are reaching critical levels of over harvesting. Oregon Grape is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial – it is the first herb that I turn to when those lymph nodes below my ears become swollen and tender. It is also a wonderful digestive aid, stimulating digestion and the flow of gastric juices. An “alterative” tonic, Oregon grape is thought to help cleanse the blood and detoxify the body, thus improving energy, skin tone and well being.
I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.
For more information on how to grow, identify and forage Oregon Grape check out this post.
Interested in learning more about Oregon Grape and 49 other common wild medicinal plants? Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!
The virtues of Oregon Grape root (and stem core) are all well and good, but what about those bitter berries? High in vitamin C and healthy flavonoids due to the anthocyanin skin pigments, the berries are ripe with their own benefits. But they are unpalatable, to put in mildly. And there isn’t exacty an Oregon grape recipe cookbook floating around, is there (there should be). What is one to do? Too seedy and bitter for a jam and needing more richness, I felt that a berry curd was in order. Always inspired by my friend Jennifer from Gather (see her stunning Oregon Grape tart here), and blessed with a boatload of Oregon Grape delivered by a friend, this delicious curd was born!
The resulting Oregon grape and lemon curd is something kinda amazing. This Oregon grape recipe has dark and deep flavor, almost musky and wild. The richness from the eggs and butter offset the tannic punch of the berries. The combined acidity of the lemon and Oregon Grape keeps the curd bright and lively on the palate. This stuff is good enough to eat by the spoonfuls, and there is no shame in that. It would also be wonderful with a graham cracker crust and topped with a meringue, spread between layers of yellow cake, or atop a shortbread crust. I fretted over whether this recipe would befit preservation by way of canning. The USDA does seem to indicate that lemon curds are safe to water bath can but does not approve of berry curds at this time. The acidity is indeed within the pH margin of safety, I decided that canning is not the best means of preservation of unused curd. I feel that freezing will actually maintain the flavor and texture far better that water bath processing anyway.
UPDATE: This Oregon grape and lemon curd DID freeze beautifully!
Need more ideas for your foraged berries — check out this sorbet.
Oregon Grape and Lemon Curd Recipe
Foraged Oregon Grape and Lemon Curd
- 1 cup Oregon Grape puree
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 1 1/2 cups raw organic cane sugar
- 6 eggs
- 8 tablespoons butter cubed
- To create puree, place a heaping cup of clean Oregon Grape berries into a blender or food processor and pulse a couple times until juices start to release. Do NOT over puree.
- Place berry puree, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and eggs into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat and whisking constantly, cook the mixture until it thickens (coats back of a spoon and whisk leaves traces in curd).
- Remove from heat and pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Whisk butter into hot curd until well combined.
- Place a sheet of parchment or plastic wrap directly on top of curd and chill until cold. Serve within one week or freeze.
I made jelly, juice, and your curd today (and canned them). The curd was the best. I was licking out all of the leftovers! Thanks for sharing!
I am so glad that you liked the curd! It is pretty yummy, if I do say so myself! Thank you!
This is a great use for Oregon grapes, I live in eastern Washington and our property is covered in them. Never really knew a good use for them till now. I did a half recipe, wasn’t sure I’d like it but it was wonderful. I have since picked a few more quarts. I will use these to make some mixed jellies and more curd. Thank you!
Oregon grape (although we don’t call it that) is quite often used in urban planting in the UK – supermarket car parks and things like that. Most people don’t forage for it, I guess, but this sounds lush! Will have to try it, thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Emma! I love your tweets, by the way! Oregon grape isn’t very tasty on its own, so there is a very good reason that people “overlook” it. But with a little creativity, the flavor is amazing. I also made an Oregon grape mead this summer that is wonderful – blog post on that one coming soon!!!
I haven’t tried this recipe yet but plan on trying it with in the week. Was wondering how ever if you could post a YouTube video for those who like to visually follow cooking/baking instructions?
Do you think this would be good using honey instead of sugar? Any idea how to substitute so that the texture stays the same? THANKS!! 🙂
Please could you let me know if there is a Oregan Grape Wine Recepie.
Hi, what time of year is best for foraging berries? Our plants are full now, in mid-April, and I harvested over a full cup but following the recipe the curd is still bitter (not for me, but based on feedback)! Maybe my house has a sweet tooth, but did I use the berries too soon?