Monday, 1 September 2014

Baie Qu'appelle?

Homemade cloudberry jamCC BY-SA 3.0

What is the name of this berry?...

Ah the bakeapple, a delicious treat.  Well known to many Canadians, unknown to many Canadians.  Why is that?  Perhaps because of it's many titles. It does (did you know) grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere across the planet.

Scientifically known as the Rubus Chamaemorus, this bright and tart berry was (and still is for some) an important staple food along the Lower North Shore of Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Because the temperatures there are ideal for the bog growing, fleshy fruit, the rubus chamaemorus germinates in abundance, creating fields of color in late summer, brilliant, sun-catching orange upon deep and light green foliage.  The berry first appears as a small white flower, morphs into a red and yellow berry, then typically ripens in late July when it has developed its signature orange and softness.

So what of its numerous titles?  Cloudberry, knotberry, low-bush salmon berry, aqpik, averin, and as I grew up knowing it, the bakeapple.  Usually we name things for a reason, we don't say 'redberry' when we speak of a 'blueberry', so most of these labels I comprehend, but what of bakeapple?  The berry is sometimes baked in desserts, but it certainly does not look or taste anything like an apple, baked or not.  And where is this name most popular?  Along the Lower North Shore of Quebec, and in parts of Labrador and Newfoundland.

What is the name of that berry? Some historians say the answer to this question goes way back, and begins with the exact same question.

Here's the theory:  When early French Settlers visited those eastern shores of Canada, a question was often upon their lips when mingling with the native communities of the area.  This inquiry was "Baie qu'appelle?"  Translation: "What is the name of this berry?"

I can picture it.  These strange looking visitors arrive and enjoy displaying and naming all they've carried with them.  They take to naming the things familiar to them too, sharing their words with those lending an ear.  And then a finger is pointed.  It extends toward a sunny mesh of orange berries, common to those watching, listening.  "Baie qu'appelle!" the man exclaims, over and over, as he bends and picks the small fruit.  He moves the berry under the nose of the closest native, "Baie qu'appelle!"

Perhaps later these native to Canada playfully mimicked the new words they'd learned, and one of those was Bakeapple.  How many tiny ears might have been listening?  And later still, perhaps more French settlers visited, and to them, with berry in hand, the natives say "bakeapple".

I love this tale.  Perhaps this is truly why, mainly in Quebec, we have since called our beloved orange berry, the bakeapple.

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