Berries, when you hear the word you instantly think of that sweet burst of flavor you have when you eat berries such as strawberries, blueberries, or any other type of berries. There is a wide variety of berries that our mother nature has provided us. But not all of them are edible. It is important to know which of these available berries is edible because some of these are very fatal for you.
You can eat berries at any time of the day it may be the best companion for your breakfast or dessert. Be it a healthy oatmeal or yogurt, a pancake, a smoothie, a cake, or in any way you want to add it. It can be eaten solely like a snack and it will fill you well and the sweet flavors can boost your mood significantly.
Historically, berries were only found in wildlife and were available in summer thus people used to store them in various forms to use in other seasons. Later as humans progressed they found ways to cultivate in various conditions and thus berries can be grown in 2 major ways:
- Wild Berries: Wild berries are those that are cultivated naturally with natural procedures and not grown in a greenhouse or control farm or any need of additional fertilizers. These wild berries have high nutrients level naturally and are safe to eat after a simple wash in water.
- Cultivated Berries: Cultivated berries are those that are grown in the specialized condition in a greenhouse where they can have control over the environment and are observed properly. Often time fertilizers and pesticides are used to increase yield and protect the plant against pests respectively.
Berries usually grow in mid to late summer, the plant may start showing blooming in springs itself. Europe and North America are amongst the major places to find wild berries.
You may know some of the most common wild berries that are widely cultivated nowadays. These berries are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, crane berries, lingonberry, bilberry the gooseberries such as Indian amla.
Let’s learn about some of the wild berries that you might not have seen before and if you have seen you don’t know their names. Knowledge of wild berries is important if you are into survival, or are just berry hunting as a fun activity during summer breaks or a vacation with friends or family.
10 Edible Wild Berries
Botanical name: Rubus parviflorus
Thimble berries are also known as redcaps. They belong to the Rosaceae family of the Plantae kingdom. It is a plant of the Rubus genus, which includes other berries like raspberry, blackberry, dew berry, and many others. Similar to the other plants of the family, thimble berries is a big berries that is an aggregate of small, individual drupelets.
They are shrubs of around 1.5 to 2.5 meters in height, grow well in moist areas with good light, but also grow in a fully shaded area. The flower of this plant is white and when the flower fertilizes it turns from white to pink and as it ripens it becomes scarlet. The leaves of the plant are unique among the plants of this family, as they are around 10 to 20 cm and have hairy leaves making them soft. These leaves can be folded and used to make a pouch to carry these berries. The stems of the plant do not have the throne.
They are mostly found in North America, Europe, and Australia. But also grow in the UK, Ireland, and Sweden.
Thimble berry is a great source of vitamin A and C. They are great for boosting your immune system. Along with the fruit the leaves and young roots of the plant can be used to treat nausea and vomiting, and strengthen the stomach and immune system.
Botanical name: Vaccinium uliginosum
Bog berries are also known as northern bilberry or western blueberry. They belong to the Ericaceae family of the Plantae kingdom. It is a plant of the Vaccinium genus, which also includes include other berries such as cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and lingonberry. Similar to other plants of the same genus these are globe-shaped berries, that grow either individually or in clusters.
They are low shrubs, around 10 -50 cm tall, and lays on the ground. The leaves of the plant are around 1-3 cm long, oval with a tapered base, slightly hairy, and strongly veined. The leaves have a green upper side while the underside is pale. The flowers are pink and urn-shaped, in globes, and grow in a cluster or individually. Flowers when fertilized converts into blueberries and berries are lobe as well. These fruits often have waxy powder on them.
They are mostly found in dry or wet rocky tundra land, meadows, or thick forest. They grow in some of the mountains of Mongolia, China, Japan, North America, and California.
They are sweet and thus can be eaten raw, some may cook them as per their needs. It can be used to store in the form of jam or alcohol.
Botanical name: Vaccinium parvifolium
They are red huckleberry also known as red whortleberry or red bilberry. They belong to the Ericaceae family of the Plantae kingdom. It is a plant of the Vaccinium genus, which also includes include other berries such as cranberry, blueberry, bog berry, cowberry, and lingonberry.
They grow from 1 - 4 meters tall. The branches are bright green and sometimes red. The leaves are oval-shaped and green on the upper side while pale underneath. The flowers of the plant are creamy pink urn shape and have waxy powder, when they fertilize they turn into bright red color. They grow in acidic and moist woods. They usually grow in mountain ranges, and dense forests and grow on top of decaying logs. They are found in North America, California, and British Columbia.
They are high in nutrients and energy boosters and are thus widely used by wildlife and humans. They are sour but can be stored as jams and jellies.
Botanical name: Sambucus nigra
It is a flowering plant, bearing berries known as Sambucus, elder, elderberry, black elder, European elderberry, and European black elderberry. It belongs to the Adoxaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
It is important to note that the consumption of raw elderberry or any part of the plant (roots, stems, leaves, and flowers) can be poisonous as it contains toxins like Sambunigrin, alkaloid, and cyanogenic glycoside. Thus, it is necessary to cook these berries before consumption for safety.
They are in the form of large shrubs or small trees of around 6 meters, the bark as mature turns greyish the branch of fruits is greenish when it bears ivory flowers, a small 3 – 5 petal flower. These flowers fertilize into dark purple berries with reddish-pink branches. The leaves are usually 10 – 30 cm long and the edges of these leaves are saw-like.
This plant is common to see on the waste collecting ground, or sides of farm-land. It usually grows in warm environments in dry or moist land in Europe, North America, Asia, and Northern Africa.
Cooked or ripe berries are sweet like cranberries. The whole plant when processed has many antioxidant and medicinal values (not yet researched by FDA). As per some third-party research, it is found effective in flu and cold cases. As this plant has toxins, berries cooked or ripe fruit when used in excess can cause harm like diarrhea, stomachache, and abdominal cramping.
Botanical name: Aronia melanocarpa
Commonly known as black chokeberry, is also available in its variant form red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and Purple chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia). They belong to the Rosaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
These plants are deciduous shrubs around 3 – 6 feet tall, the leaves are smaller and elliptical shaped around 2 – 3 inches. They grow white flowers with distinct anthers, usually red colored. The flowers fertilize into black fruits.
These plants are very adaptable to their surrounding, meaning this plant can grow in varied types of soils it has a very complex root structure and is thus used on lands where erosion control is required. They grow in sunny or slightly shaded environments. This plant is native to North America and cultivated in Europe.
This fruit is filled with nutrients and vitamins, is fresh and sweet, and is thus often used in jams, pies, and juice. As per the medical news today article, these fruits have many health benefits such as anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic effects, and are good for organ health and artery and blood vessels.
Botanical name: Amelanchier
This fruit is also known by the names such as serviceberry, saskatoon, sugarplum, wild-plum, or shadbush. This belongs to the Rosaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are deciduous shrubs with round or elliptical green leaves. They grow white flowers that bloom into purple berries that have a waxy coating around them. They grow well in sunny or slightly shaded areas, in rich and moist soil. This is native to North America, and few species are found in Asia and Europe.
They contain high values of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals concentration and thus are like natural daily vitamin pills. It is popular not only with humans but wildlife and birds as well. This fruit taste similar to blueberries. They can be eaten raw solely or used in jams and pies. They can be dried and stored for a long time.
This plant is visually very appealing, changing color throughout the year. And thus, are used as ornamental shrubs. Meaning is used as decorative in various settings.
Botanical name: Morus nigra
Mulberry is also known as black mulberry, and as shahtoot in India. They belong to the Moraceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are fast-growing deciduous tall shrubs or small trees around 24 meters. They have broad leaves with short hairs on the upper surface. The flowers are white. Fruits are usually red or black or also found in white. Unripe fruits are white, green, or yellow and can be harmful to health so avoid them.
They grow in the moist temperate region. This can be found in China and some parts of southwestern Asia. These plants are now heavily cultivated in North America and Europe.
Fruits have a sweet taste with a hint of tangy flavor in them, thus often used in jams, pies, and wine. Along with the fruit, the leaves are full of nutrients and widely used in the health and beauty sector. The white mulberry tree is used to cultivate silkworms. Leaves and roots of mulberry are found with medicinal effects.
Botanical name: Shepherdia argentea
This plant is also known as silver buffalo berry, rabbit berry, or Nebraska currant. They belong to the Elaeagnaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
These are deciduous plants, tall shrubs, or small trees 2 – 4 meters tall, with dark-colored bark. They have thrones along their surface. The leaves are elliptical and whitish-gray. The flowers are yellow with distinct anthers and Dioecious, meaning the male and female flowers are on separate plants. These flowers fertilize into a red or sometimes yellow berry.
This plant can adapt to dry or moist soil and grow well in moist soil and sunny surroundings. This plant is highly adaptive and thus requires low maintenance. They can be found in the USA and Canada.
They are tart and thus used to marinate the meat or used in jams, pies, or jellies. They are eaten a lot by wildlife and are also a known shelter for birds. They can grow easily anywhere and look pleasing thus, often used for ornamental purposes.
Botanical name: Vitis rotundifolia
Muscadine is a grapevine species belonging to the Vitaceae family of the Plantae kingdom. Vitis genus plants are widely used for wine production.
The flowers are dioecious meaning they bear separate male (pollenizer) and female (pistillate) flowers. The fruits grow on the vines of the plant, as the fruit matures it falls from the vine and the skin may tear in this process it is called a wet scar. The muscadine berries are black, red, or bronze.
The plants grow well in moist soil in full sunlight. They usually don’t grow well in extremely wetland and shaded areas. They grow attached to a support and then grow around it. The muscadine is native to the southeastern US and widely cultivated in North America.
These berries are sweet and thus can be eaten on their own or used to make juice, jam, pies, and wines. This plant is tolerant to pesticides, and thus can be easily cultivated by wine producers. The sweet taste also allures the wildlife.
Botanical name: Grewia asiatica
Sherbetberry are also known as phalsa or falsa. They are part of the Malvaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are shrubs or small trees around 8 meters long. They have broad leaves around 5 – 18 cm long, with yellow flowers with red petal tips. When fertilize, they turn into purple to black ripe fruits. They grow in light forests or even in a pot at home. They require a warm climate. They are very adaptable in the type of soil but best grow in moist soil. They usually grow in Southern Asia. They very first spotted in India and then
These berries are filled with nutrients, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants, and have a sweet taste with a hint of citrus thus they are often used to make refreshments and drinks or consumed raw as a snack. Its leaf has medicinal properties and thus can be used for antibiotics.
You should keep in mind that even though berries look the sweetest and most tempting there are berries that are poisonous and fatal for you. Let’s look at some of the edible and non-edible berries.
8 Non-Edible Berries
Botanical name: Solanum carlinense
This plant is also known as bull nettle, devil’s tomato, and wild tomato. It belongs to the Solanaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are herbs of around 1 – 3 feet in height, which are characterized to have yellowish spines throughout the plants, even the leaves. Leaves are oval to elliptical shaped with sharp prickles on them. The flowers are star-shaped and white to purple. When the flower fertilizes they bear tomato-like berries. These berries are green in color in their early life, but as they mature they turn yellow. The toxicity of the fruit increases as they mature.
They are very adaptive to any type of soil and can grow widely in the wasteland. They do prefer sunny environments but can grow in a shaded area as well. They are native to the US, and North America. They are also found in some parts of Europe, Asia, and Australia.
This plant has the presence of solanine glycoalkaloids in very high amounts. This can cause vomiting, scratchy throat, and diarrhea when any part of the plant is consumed by humans or animals. The fruits become extremely toxic as they mature. Ingestion of fruit can cause abdominal pain and respiratory issues which may lead to death.
Botanical name: Actaea rubra
Bane berry is also known as red baneberry, china berry, and Actaea. They belong to the Ranunculaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
The small erect plant of 1 – 3 feet, has a hard stem when they grow. Its leaves are large and have a toothed margin. There are hairy projections on the bottom of the leaves. They bear white small clustered flowers with small spear-shaped petals. The flowers have distinctive cream anthers.
The flower fertilizes and converts into small berries with darker tips giving the illusion of an eye. The fruits can be red or white colored berries. Red berries are also known as snakeberry and white berries are also known as Doll’s eyes. This plant can grow in a shaded area. Available in many places like US and Canada.
This plant has glycoside ranunculin. This poison, when ingested in large amounts can irritate the mouth and gastrointestinal line, vomiting, diarrhea, and even respiratory issues. The juice of these berries was used to poison arrows in ancient times.
Lily Of The Valley
Botanical name: Convallaria majalis
It belongs to the Asparagaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are herbaceous plants, which grow only 2 leafy shoots and several stem apexes to grow flowers. They bear distinctive drooping white bell-shaped flowers on only one side of the leafless stem. The flowers bear bright red berries. It has a sweet smell which is used to make perfumes. These flowers grow into red round berries with one pointy side.
They grow well in dry woodland and shaded parts of the garden in temperate places. It’s commonly found in the UK and North America. Also found in Europe and Asia.
They have many cardiac glycosides, which can cause problems like vomiting, dizziness, skin allergy, cardiac arrest, and nervous system problems. This can cause problems for both humans and animals.
Botanical name: Euonymus europaeus
They belong to the Celastraceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are deciduous trees that are around 9 meters tall. The branches and bark are usually green but the color deepens as the tree matures. They have elliptical leaves with a pointy end. Leaves have a sharp projection on the edges, and these leaves turn orange-red from their usual green in fall. They have a small yellowish-green flower that fertilizes into pinkish-red fruit these flowers are like capsule and has orange seed on the inside.
They are adaptive to any soil type. They grow well in moist soil and sunny areas but can grow in shaded areas as well. They are native to Europe and the western parts of Asia. Also found in eastern Canada and the US.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, it contains many toxic cardiac glycosides and alkaloids and thus should be avoided by humans, however, it can be eaten by animals and wildlife creatures.
Botanical name: Taxus baccata
It is also known as English yew or European yew. It belongs to the Taxaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
These are shrubs growing around 6 feet tall. The leaves are green and smooth. They bear small white to yellowish flowers. These flowers mature into slightly oval-shaped berry which has an opening on the top from which you could see the seed. The immature green berry is very toxic, but when they mature into a red berry, only the red flesh around the seed is edible and all the other parts of the plant even the seed in the red flash are poisonous.
They are often used as ornamental plants. They are found in Europe, and some parts of Africa and Asia.
All parts of the plant are toxic and can be fatal to you. They have toxins like Taxine and Taxol. These are present in all parts of the plant and their ingestion can be harmful to all mammals. Ingestion of any part of the fruit can cause stomach aches, respiratory problems, heart problems, and even nerve problems. These plants can be consumed by birds as their digestive system does not digest the seeds entirely and thus no harm is caused to them.
Botanical name: Ilex
It belongs to the Aquifoliaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
It can be a shrub or a tree depending on the species. The leaves are medium-sized and the edges have spine-like shapes. It is said that the leaves have medicinal properties. This plant has small dioecious white flowers, that fertilize into small drupe-like berries. The color of the berry may vary from red to brown or black.
Various types of holly berries are native to places like North America, and East Asia.
Its seeds have the toxin saponin, which can cause harm like nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. It is harmful to humans but can be eaten by animals and birds.
Botanical name: Phytolacca Americana
This plant is known as American pokeweed, poke sallet, dragon berries, and ink berries. They belong to the Phytolaccaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
It is a small shrub with smooth green leaves and purple stems. The flowers grow on the small stem and are green to white and they fertilize into red to purple fruits. They are native to North America and Europe.
They have toxins like Phytolaccatoxin and Phytolaccigenin. They can be fatal to humans. The entire plant is toxic and poisonous that can cause death when consumed directly by humans. However, it is seen to be an important feed for some birds such as mockingbirds. If it is properly processed then it can have medical use as well.
Botanical name: Solanum dulcamara
It is also known as bittersweet nightshade, blue bindweed, or woody nightshade. They belong to the Solanaceae family of the Plantae kingdom.
They are climbing vines with woody stems, with large leaves which have arrow-like tips and lobes at the base. The flowers are star-shaped purple petals and yellow stamen in color. The berries are orange to red in color and oval-shaped. They are native to Africa, Europe, and Asia. They are an important diet for birds however they are poisonous for humans and livestock. When processed properly they have high medicinal values.
It contains solanine and alkaloids in all parts of the plant and can be harmful to humans on direct consumption. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and even paralysis.
Berries usually grow from early spring to late summer. Berries can have many nutritional values and should be an important part of your diet. As they grow in wild places they can be life-saving in survival situations. However, don’t get allured by the sweet smell and attractive bright color of the berries. Some berries may look like the sweetest treat but could be deadly. We discussed some of the most edible berries and also some of the berries that you should avoid. You should make sure that you know what berry you are eating and also make sure to do some tests to make sure that the berries are safe for you.
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- MasterClass: Edible Wild Berries Guide: How to Identify Edible Wild Berries (https://www.masterclass.com/articles/edible-wild-berries). Accessed 2023-01-03
- Owlcation: 7 Most Poisonous Berries (https://owlcation.com/stem/10-Poisonous-Berries-That-Can-Kill-You). Accessed 2023-01-03
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- U.S. Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central, food search (FoodData Central (usda.gov)). Accessed 2023-01-05
- Source of plant data: Gardenia, Britannica, Central Coast Biodiversity, Native Plants PNW, Woodland trust.
- Verywellhealth: what is elderberry? (Elderberry: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions (verywellhealth.com)). Accessed 2023-01-05
- IFAS: The muscadine grape (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/HS100). Accessed 2023-01-05
- Medical news today: What are the health benefits of aronia berries? (Aronia (chokeberry): Health benefits and nutrition (medicalnewstoday.com)). Accessed 2023-01-05
- CAES: Horsenettle (https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/CAES/DOCUMENTS/Publications/Fact_Sheets/Valley_Laboratory/HorsenettleFactsheetpdf.pdf). Accessed 2023-01-06
- Wildflower center: find plant (https://www.wildflower.org/plants/). Accessed 2023-01-06
- Fat hen: Beware the poisonous autum berries (https://the-fat-hen.co.uk/beware-the-poisonous-autumn-berries/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20unusual,to%20be%20many%20recorded%20incidents.&text=The%20berries%20contain%20toxic%20cardiac%20glycosides%20and%20alkaoloids.). Accessed 2023-01-06
- Mount Sinai: Yew poisoning (https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/poison/yew-poisoning). Accessed 2023-01-06
- Extension garden (NC): Solanum dulcamara (https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/solanum-dulcamara/). Accessed 2023-01-06