By Julie Christensen
Red berries are among the healthiest foods on the planet. High in anthocyanins, which are plant compounds that fight inflammation and cell damage, these tiny fruits are also low in calories and fat. But, don’t forget taste. Sweet, tart and flavorful, berries are delicious as a snack, in salads, on cereals, or for dessert. Include them in your daily diet for increased health.
When we think of red berries, we typically think of strawberries and raspberries, the most common red berries consumed in America. But don’t overlook round berries, such as currants and gooseberries. Many red berries grow wild throughout the country, but make sure you positively identify them since some red berries are toxic. Consult a field guide or take an expert with you to berry hunt in the wild.
Exploring Red Berries
Below are some of the most common red berries growing in the United States.
Bittersweet [Solanum dulcamara]. Toxic. Invasive throughout much of the Northeast, this vining plant is often used for decorative purposes. The bright purple flowers are followed by small, rounded fruit that ripen from green to orange to red.
Buffaloberry [Shepherdia argentea]. Found throughout the Rocky Mountains and the West, this shrub has sage colored leaves that resemble a Russian Olive. The red or orange fruits appear in the fall. They make excellent jam, but cause diarrhea if eaten raw.
Butcher’s Broom [Ruscus aculeatus]. Toxic. This small, shrubby plant has tough leaves with pointed tips. The berries are round and bright red.
Chokecherry [Prunus virginiana]. This plant isn’t really a berry, but a relative of the cherry. It is used to make sauces and jellies. Chokecherries grows wild throughout most of the United States on shrubs or even trees. Pick the berries when they’re deep red to almost purple. They have a bitter flavor, but taste delicious when processed into syrup. The leaves, seeds and bark are toxic.
Currant [Ribes rubrum] Currants prefer cool temperatures and moist soils. The tart, juicy fruit is usually red although some varieties are white to pink. Currant juice makes excellent wines and jellies.
Elderberry [Sambucus nigra] Elderberries are easy to grow and make lovely landscaping plants. The fruit are red, purple or black, depending on the species. They can cause indigestion if eaten raw, but make delicious syrups and wine. Researchers have found that elderberry syrup is effective for relieving cold and flu symptoms. Not all species produce edible fruit.
Gooseberry [Ribes grossularia]. Very tart translucent green fruits ripen to red. Some varieties remain green or are pink when ripe. Use gooseberries in pies and preserves.
Raspberries [Rubus]. Unbelievably expensive to buy at the grocery store, raspberries are simple to grow in a home garden. Choose a fall-bearing variety if you live in an area with harsh winters and spring frosts. Eat raspberries fresh, freeze them or make them into jam and syrup.
Rose hip [Rosa]. Many rose varieties, including wild roses, produce rose hips after blooms fade. The hips are seedy, with a slightly sweet, slightly bitter taste. They can be used in jams, syrups, wine and more, and are a good source of vitamin C.
Spindle [Euonymus europaeus]. Highly toxic. This low-lying shrub produces pinkish-red, lobed fruit. The fruit contain a bright orange seed and appears in the fall.
Strawberry [Fragaria]. Besides being delicious, wild and cultivated strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. Strawberries need a bit more care than other berries, but homegrown strawberries taste infinitely better than those found in the stores. Even a small plot or container will yield several pints of juicy fruit.
Want to know more about edible and non-edible berries? Visit the links below:
- Wild Berries and Other Wild Fruit from the University of Wyoming
- Berried or Buried from Wild Food School
Did we miss any red berries? Leave a comment and let us know!
When she’s not writing about gardening, food and canning, Julie Christensen enjoys spending time in her gardens, which includes perennials, vegetables and fruit trees. She’s written hundreds of gardening articles for the Gardening Channel, Garden Guides and San Francisco Gate, as well as several e-books.