Canopy and Understory Turns Oregon Forest Berries Most People Don’t Know Are Edible Into Jam

If people thought of forests as pantries, then the undervalued salal berry might get more love.

Canopy and Understory

Founder: Bettina von Hagen

Year founded: 2018

Product description: Forest berries no one ever thinks of eating are made into spread and packaged in cute jars for bougie shoppers.

Yearly sales: A projected $100,000 the first year

Is it profitable? Maybe next year.

Available at: New Seasons

Price: $11.99

If people thought of forests as pantries, then the undervalued salal berry might get more love. You've seen the shiny-leafed shrubs before—they're ubiquitous from British Columbia to Southern Oregon. Native Americans would cook the bruise-hued berries into something akin to Fruit Roll-Ups. But most people don't know whether they're safe to eat.

Now, one company is giving the salal plant a big profile boost. Ecotrust Forest Management, which acquires and manages forest land, created Canopy and Understory to help connect people to the environment through consumer products, the first of which is a salal berry fruit spread.

CEO Bettina von Hagen has long wanted to help others understand the intrinsic value of our forests while demonstrating that eating foraged food doesn't have to be like gnawing on bark—it can actually taste good.

"This is the beginning of a line of products we hope to produce," she explains. "It's a great way for people to connect with forests—the sort of social purposes there beyond the fact that wild, foraged foods are delicious."

That's the least that can be said of the three flavors of spread: the original wild salal berry, another that incorporates tingly lemon notes through a spruce-tip distillate, and a muffin-sweet variety made with blueberries. Sure, there are plenty of jams and jellies in stores to jazz up a cracker or slice of toast, but the salal berry market is ripe for development. So far, the only competitor von Hagen has seen was peddling spread out of a roadside stand.

Guilty pleasure snack: Any menu item with Oregon truffles.

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