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The highbush cranberry, the best fruit in rural Alaska

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Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 11:30 pm

LAKE MINCHUMINA, Alaska — When my twin sister Julie and I were 8 or 10 years old, every early August we haunted open birch forests and brushy slopes, eyeing sweet-smelling highbush cranberries as they turned from hard pale green berries to plump brick red and finally to the vivid, almost transparent-red of the fully ripe berries.

Big clumps of brilliant berries hung in clusters from waist-high, big-leafed plants, tempting me to pop single berries into my mouth, popping each like a tiny water balloon to let the potent, sour juice rush over my tongue. Chewing the pulpy skin, I spit out the large, flat seed, a move that occasionally ended in brief but fierce seed-spitting battles with my brother and sister.

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