Juicy, sweet berries are highly perishable and are often a luxury item at the grocery store. Grow berries in your home garden instead, for a delicious summer treat that’s packed with vitamins, fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Do your research before eating any berry you are not familiar with, as some are toxic (shown in red below).
Acai berry: Acai berries have garnered attention recently as a super food high in fatty acids, proteins and antioxidants. The dark purple fruit grow in clusters in palm trees native to the Amazon jungle of South America. Learn more.
Amla / Amalika / Indian Gooseberry: Grows on small to medium sized trees native to India, with peer reviewed studies about its health qualities. Sour tasting and fibrous. An important ingredient in Indian Ayurvedic medicine Often used in powder form.
Baneberry: Small, hard red or white berries. Toxic.
Barbados cherry: The Barbados cherry is a small shrub or tree that grows in the Caribbean and some parts of Central and South America. It is not at all cold hardy, suffering damage when temperatures dip below 30 degrees F. The fruit are bright red, cherry-like and very juicy.
Barberry: Barberry shrubs are used primarily as landscape plants, particularly around foundations. Birds love the small, red fruits. They’re too sour to enjoy fresh, but are palatable when cooked with sugar. Often used as dried berries.
Bearberry: Found in arctic and subarctic zones around the world, the bearberry produces red berries enjoyed by bears and humans alike. Native people gather the leaves of bearberry plants for use as in folk medicine said to cure rheumatoid arthritis, gout, back pain, headaches and kidney stones.
Bilberry: Similar to blueberries, these flavorful berries grow wild throughout northern Europe. They are highly perishable and don’t transport well, but can be purchased in powder form. Europeans pick the wild berries for fresh eating, jams and baked goods.
Bittersweet: These bright orange berries grow on long trailing vines throughout New England. The berries are toxic and very bitter, hence their name. Use them for decorative purposes only.
Blackberry: Blackberries are related to raspberries and grow wild throughout the Pacific Northwest and the South. These plants prefer moist, fertile soils and mild winters. New varieties of blackberries are more cold hardy, but gardeners north of U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zone 6 will have better success with raspberries.
Blueberry: Sweet, juicy blueberries are used for fresh eating, or in sauces and baked goods. Unfortunately, blueberries require acidic soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. If you have alkaline soil, you will need to heavily amend it or grow your blueberries in containers.
Black Mulberry: The black mulberry grows only in warm climates, south of zone 7, but is a favorite fruit among Southern cooks. Substitute it for blackberries in pies and jams.
Boysenberry: An botanist developed the boysenberry in the 1920s by crossing raspberries, blackberries and logan berries. Walter Knott grew the berries at his farm and his wife made the sweet fruit into preserves. Knott’s Berry Farm became famous and the rest is history. Boysenberries require conditions similar to blackberries.
Buffalo berry: Buffalo berry grows wild throughout the Great Plains region and is enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike. The plant produces large, red fruit suitable for eating fresh, dried or in baked goods.
Bunchberry: Bunchberry trees produce red clusters of stone fruit in northern regions of North America. These fruits are bland tasting and better left for the birds.
Chokeberry: Chokeberry shrubs are often used as landscape plants because they are drought tolerant, disease resistant and grow under the shade of other trees. The fruit is acerbic, but makes good wine and preserves.
Chokecherry: The chokecherry grows wild throughout many parts of the West, although it grows easily in gardens, as well. Use this tart fruit in jams and syrups.
Cloudberry: This tree or shrub grows throughout the coldest regions of North America, producing yellow, bland fruit.
Cowberry: Cowberries grow wild throughout northern Europe and Canada, producing tart red fruit, similar to cranberries. The fruit are used in baked goods and preserves.
Cranberry: Not just for the Thanksgiving meal, cooks appreciate cranberries for their tart, fresh flavor. Cranberries are wetland fruits, requiring acidic peat soil, constant moisture and a long growing season.
Currant: Currants thrive in regions with cool, moist conditions. The small, round fruits may be translucent white, red or purple with a rich, tart flavor used for preserves or wines.
Dewberry: Wild black berries that grow on long, creeping vines. These plants grow prolifically throughout the Pacific Northwest. Eat them fresh or use them in jams and baked goods. They have a slightly bitter taste.
Elderberry: Similar to currants, elderberries are dark red to purple and make fine wine and preserves. Grow this plant in cool, moist regions with cold winters.
Farkleberry: A relative of blueberries, farkleberry, sometimes known as sparkleberry, grows wild throughout the Midwest. The black berries are relatively tasteless, although birds and wildlife enjoy them.
Goji berry: Bright red goji berries have been heralded as a super food, high in antioxidants. The shrubs are native to the mountainous regions of China and the Himalayas, but researchers in Utah are experimenting with them. They tolerate drought, extreme heat and cold, and poor soils. Learn more.
Gooseberry: This thorny plant produces tart, green berries used in pies and preserves. Gooseberries thrive in cool areas and prefer rich, moist soils.
Grape: Believe it or not, grapes are botanically classified as berries. Table grapes are used fresh and may be red, green or black. Small, seeded types have an aromatic flavor and are used for juices and wines.
Holly berry: Bright, red berries that grow on evergreen holly shrubs. Toxic.
Huckleberry: Huckleberries grow wild throughout the Pacific Northwest, thriving in the cool, moist conditions found in woodland settings. They are similar to blueberries, and are delicious fresh, or in jams and baked goods.
Indian Plum: This flowering shrub or small tree is native to the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascade Mountains. The reddish fruit are non-toxic and loved by birds.
Ivy berry: Small purple to black berries found on ivy plants. Toxic.
Juneberry: This plant tolerates drought, cold winters and poor soils, growing wild throughout much of North America. It is used more often as a landscaping plant, although the fruit is tasty, resembling blueberries.
Juniper berry: Junipers produce dusty blue berries that resemble blueberries. The fruit isn’t toxic, but is rarely palatable.
Lingonberry: Also known as cowberry.
Logan Berry: This cross between a raspberry and a blackberry has a distinct taste and is used commercially in jams and juices. Grow logan berry as you would blackberries.
Mistletoe berry: Small, hard, red berries that grow on mistletoe. Toxic.
Nannyberry: This plant grows wild in northern woodlands and marshes. The berry resembles chokecherries in appearance and taste. Use it in syrups and preserves.
Oregon Grape: Oregon grapes grow well in a variety of soils and are used primarily as a landscaping shrub. The small, purple fruits are tart, but are eaten fresh or made into wine or preserves. Oregon grape root is used medicinally to treat diahrrea, constipation, giardia and gallbladder disease.
Persimmon: Like tomatoes, persimmons are botanically classified as a berry. These squat or round orange fruit hail from the Middle East and Asia, although gardeners in the Southern United States successfully grow them as well. They have a tart taste and slightly mealy texture.
Pokeberry: The fruit of this plant resemble blueberries, but don’t be fooled. All parts of the plant are toxic. The berries lack the star at the base of the fruit found on blueberries and have a glossy purple-red sheen.
Privet berry: Small purple or black berries that grow on evergreen or semi-evergreen flowering shrubs or hedges. Toxic.
Raspberry: Raspberries are cold-hardy and long-lived, producing sweet, flavorful fruit suitable for fresh eating, sauces and preserves. Plant raspberries in fertile soil and provide at least 1 inch of water weekly.
Red Mulberry: Red mulberry trees are native to many parts of the United States. They produce fruit similar to blackberries. The fruit are highly perishable and leave a mess on sidewalks and hard surfaces.
Salmonberry: Salmonberry is a perennial plant native to Alaska and Canada. The orange or red fruit resemble raspberries and are eaten fresh or in preserves.
Strawberry: A homegrown strawberry has little in common with those found in grocery stores. Homegrown varieties are often smaller, but have an intense strawberry flavor that makes you stand up and take notice. Grow them in fertile, moist soil and full sun.
Sugarberry: Sugarberry trees grow throughout the Southern United States and produce yellow or orange fruits loved by birds and insects.
Tayberry: This hybrid cross between a loganberry and a black raspberry produces sweet, red fruit. It grows in moist, fertile soil and is more frost hardy than blackberries.
Thimbleberry: A wild cousin of cultivated raspberries, thimbleberries grow from Alaska to northern Mexico. Use them fresh or in jams. They are softer and more perishable than raspberries and rarely sold commercially.
White Mulberry: White mulberry trees were brought from China to the United States in the 1800s in an effort to establish a silk industry here. The caterpillars feed off the leaves of these trees. The fruit is bland and unpalatable to humans.
Wineberry: This wild raspberry grows throughout New England and is considered an invasive plant. The fruit are soft and tart.
Wintergreen: This plant grows on creeping vines throughout Canada and the northern United States. The berries have an acerbic taste that improves with freezing.
Yew berry: Red berries found on evergreen shrubs. Toxic.
Youngberry: Byrnes M. Young introduced this hybrid cross between a dewberry and a blackberry in 1905. It is frequently grown in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
The world of berries extends far beyond the few commonly grown or found in grocery stores. Many berries that grow wild are safe to eat, but consult a field guide to accurately identify any berry before you consume it. Berries resembling blackberries and raspberries are always safe, as are wild strawberries.
Did we miss any berries? Leave a comment!