Foraging in Minnesota: Snozzberries

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t know what you’re missing. Everybody else is in the woods. 

The snozzberries are out.

Snozzberries, which belong to the Snoziferum genus, fruit only every 23 years. To further complicate things for eager “snozzforagers,” they come out for just one day: the day after March 31st. 

Snoziferum, spp.

If you thought snozzberry was just a wallpaper flavor, you’d be wrong. There are in fact three species of Snozzberries. Minnesota has the distinction of containing the region where the ranges of all three overlap: namely the patch of woods behind the Dairy Queen in Aitkin. 

The best known is Snoziferum purpurea, or the Purple Snozzberry. They grow in the form of a hardwood tree, and the berries appear at the junction of branches. S. purpurea is found mainly in shaded uplands of most of Minnesota and north central Iowa. Berries are highly coveted by porcupines and are usually consumed by midday. 

Snoziferum aculeatum (Orange Snozzberry) appears in evergreen form and is often confused with ordinary fir trees (bottom photo). Orange snozzberry trees occur in riparian areas of northeastern Minnesota and southern Ontario. Its shiny berries grow near the ends of branches and are roughly the size of purple snozzberries. There is a multi-colored genetic variant, though rare, which is rumored to have been developed by the Oompa Loompas and accidentally released into the wild. Observations are encouraged to be reported to the Snozzberries of North America Foraging Union.  

The third and most rare is Snoziferum asinus, which grows in swamps and peat bogs of Minnesota, Ontario, and Saskatchewan (top photo). Known as the Dream Snozzberry, fruits are roughly half the size of other snozzberries and grow directly on mossy surfaces without other vegetative support. In fact, it has no leaves or stems at all— only a root system. It is the most prized variety among foragers because just one berry is rumored to induce weeks’ worth of phizzwizards. As with the other varieties, its fruit withers and disappears in less than 24 hours. 

The Snozz-mystery

Not surprisingly, little is known about snozzberries. This is mainly because nobody has been able to secure funding for a comprehensive research project, which would last more than two decades. What’s more, snozzberry plants are almost impossible to identify without the berries intact. 

They are widely believed to flower about halfway through their 23-year cycle, but no photographs exist. In fact, their reproductive mechanisms are hotly debated. Some believe them to reproduce asexually. 

A select, vocal few subscribe to the “Snozzwanger Theory,” which proposes that snozzberry specimens sprout from the discarded baby teeth of those deadly beasts, the location where they touch the soil determining which of the three species grows therefrom. Needless to say there has been no physical proof secured to support this theory, however, it actually seems to be gaining traction in recent years simply because this theory keeps getting repeated. Scientists are genuinely baffled by this phenomenon.

The Snozz-harvest

Foragers these days will have a harder time finding these treasures than their parents and grandparents did. Purple and orange snozzberry trees were widely overharvested about 50 years ago because their avocado-colored wood was prized for making veneers for kitchen appliances. This is not to say that dream snozzberries are any more plentiful, because they have always been considered scarce. Additionally, dream snozzberries are one of the most dangerous berries to pursue, as hundreds of foragers have sunk and disappeared into the bogs. Those who don’t disappear will typically develop a raging case of toenail fungus which is usually cleared up by the next snozzberry year. 

The typical snozzberry tree will have between one and two dozen berries at harvest time. Those who find more than they can eat on location will find it hard to preserve their finds. This is why people usually forage for snozzberries in groups of 50 or more; letting any go to waste is a terrible shame. 

If you happen to find yourself in a position with more snozzberries than you can eat or share on the spot, a dark, warm, moist location will keep them fresh for several hours after being picked. A perfect place is in one’s armpit. Most newbies shy away from this practice, but the upside is being able to share the harvest with more people. The downside is that if they start to go bad, it’s hard to tell. 

Regarding their taste, snozzberries are not remarkable in the least. Orange snozzberries have a mild citrus flavor, purple snozzberries taste much like Concord grapes. Dream snozzberries are unique in that no one claims to like their flavor, which is like a combination of dog hair and moldy towel. 

This year, corporate leadership at Never A Goose Chase has decided to offer compensation for fresh snozzberries of any variety. Bounties will be paid according to quantity, condition, and type. Foragers can expect $10-230/lb. for orange and purple snozzberries, and $628/lb. for dream snozzberries. Call 1(800) 555-3665 for drop off location, and don’t ask questions. Payment options will be a) cash, and b) merchandise vouchers for Al’s Goldfish which don’t expire until April 31st. 

*photos courtesy of Foragers Of Occidental Longitude Snozzberries

If you’re interested in learning about more foraged foods, please visit the What to Forage page.


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All content copyright NAGC and Roy Heilman, 2018