Local Forages: Manzanita

Local Forages
Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:

(Arctostaphylos sp.)

“Manzanita’s ripe fruit, the “little apple,” are appreciated for the surprisingly sweet cider that can be made from their brittle, dry red or red-orange skin” -- Judith Larner Lowry, California Foraging.

Manzanita is located throughout the western coast from Oregon to San Diego and from the coast to the Sierra Nevadas.  With a smooth, red to mahogany bark, this gorgeous, sun-loving California shrub makes berries great for a hiking snack or to make into cider later. 

Manzanita is easily identifiable, with its unique, smooth, dark red bark to its evergreen, leathery leaves and beautiful, crooked growing.  Once it is flowering from January through April, you will find white to pink, bell-shaped, waxy flowers which become a mahogany-red fruits that appear like little apples ripening early summer through fall.

Gather the berries once they are just ripe or completely sun dried on the bush. Berries are usually ripe from late summer through fall and the leaves are always available.

Manzanita’s berries are good dried and have a sour apple candy like taste. The berries can also make a fantastic cider which is in the recipe below (can also be made into an alcoholic version if needed).  They can also add a tart flavor to salads or wherever creativity takes you.  Other uses of the manzanita include making lotion from the berries to treat poison oak, tea from the leaves have been used for stomach relief, and chewed leaves can be applied to sores.

Manzanita 3.jpg

Manzanita is a highly drought-tolerant native shrub that supports butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees as well as many native insect species. This makes it a great ecological addition to your sunny garden space and it grows in many forms from ground cover to small tree species. It blooms in the winter months when few other plants do and we commonly plant them with chaparral companions like Coffee Berry, Ceanothus, Sage, Holly-leaf Cherry, Toyon, and Monkey Flower. Happy Foraging!


Some details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry


Featured Recipe:
Manzanita Berry Cider

  • Pick and wash the ripe berries.
  • Boil 4 cups water for every 1 cup of berries. Pour water over the berries and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Use a potato masher, or something similar, to crush, bruise, or lightly break the berries and let this steep at room temperature overnight.
  • The next day, pour the cider through a fine sieve into a mason jar and repeat this with a cheese cloth. Save the berries, because you can make another batch of cider with them if desired.
  • Now let your cider sit in the fridge overnight. More sediment will fall to the bottom. Carefully decant the good cider from the jar, leaving as much of the fine sediment in the original jar as possible. The sediment is loaded with tannins, so you want it out of your cider.
  • Sweeten to your liking and enjoy!