If you are out venturing in the wild or hiking a trail, you may come across a bush of tasty looking, bright-colored berries that may raise your appetite.
Berries have many kinds and are abundant in nature in many shapes and forms. You’ll find plenty of such wild berries in wild, mountains, trails and national parks. Don’t let the word “wild” misguide you as many wild berries are not only harmless to eat but are tasty as well.
You can consume them fresh from the plant or cook them to make pies, jams or preserves. The most common kind of edible wild berries include cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Even though most of them are harmless if eaten, however, beware as there are few poisonous ones as well. It’s crucial to know how to differentiate between the poisonous and edible wild berries for staying safe in the wild.
Otherwise, poisonous wild berries can easily make you sick, while others can prove fatal as well. They can also cause stomach and heart problems. Therefore, it’s recommended not to feed on wild berries unless necessary.
How to identify edible and non-edible wild berries?
Many ways can aid you to differentiate between the two. This includes identifying through color, size, stem, bushes, and taste, all of which requires one to be educated enough on the topic. There is a common misconception regarding the wild berries that white one is safe to eat, but the red ones will get you dead. However, there are many edible red berries and toxic white berries as well. Ironically, some wild berries are although not safe to consume when raw but are edible once cooked. Similarly, few berries are not toxic but still initiate symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
If you are not keen enough, you might go for the wrong selection and get yourself into deep trouble. To avoid such deadly wild berries that you might come across, it’s best to be familiar with them and their plants. Below are mentioned some tips that you can act upon to clear your doubts.
1. Examine the plant
Firstly, have a detailed examination of the berries, flowers, leaves, roots, and stem of the plants. Inspect the shapes, colors, and branches of the plant and notice whether the plant grows in the form of bunches and clusters. Where and in which season do they grow? All the above questions will help you, notably to identify the edible berries.
2. Notice the color
The berries red, yellow or white growing in clusters should be avoided. Only half of the red-colored berries are considered edible. On the other hand, black and blueberries are typically non-poisonous.
3. Be familiar with the climate and region
If you know what kind of wild berries to look for in a particular climate or geographic region, it’ll save a considerable amount of time and energy. Certain wild berries are only restricted to a particular area in a certain season. Therefore, you can start your search from the area where the probability of finding the wild berry is most high.
For instance, areas like sunny patches and old pastures can provide you with blackberries and raspberries. Blueberries are commonly found in acidic places such as rocky, sunny areas and sandier soil. You’ll find strawberries near forest edges or streams.
4. Look for common berries
Most of the berries that we consume in our daily life such as blackberries, strawberries and raspberries etc. are found in the wild as well. These wild berries are just as edible as the one found in your nearby store. However, the wild counterpart of these berries is typically a little smaller in size. Therefore, if you are out in the wild and looking for some wild berries to feed on, its best to start with the one you are already familiar with. This way, you don’t have to take any risk when in search of edible wild berries. However, it’s always to best to rinse clean the berries with water before eating.
5. Consult a guide
Whenever you are going out in the wild, it’s best to carry along an identification guide for edible and non-edible wild plants/berries. These guides will not only contain detailed information about common wild berries but will use clear photos of each to illustrate the difference. Also, you might find information relevant to the plants and berries found in that particular area explain where and in which season they grow.
If your local wildlife authority does not provide any such guides, then you can always revert to the internet for help. Look for the related information over the internet and print a copy of the one you find suitable. Take this copy with you when on a trip into the wilderness.
6. Hire a professional
If you don’t want to sweat yourself, you can always hire a professional expert in the knowledge of wild plants and vegetation. This way, you can easily point out edible berries from poisonous one without getting your head into books.
7. Study the bushes and trees
Apart from focusing only on the berry, studying the bushes or trees can also help you identify whether the particular wild berry is edible or not. Doing so is important because some edible berries have the same looking poisonous counterpart as well. The only way to identify the difference between the two is to look for their bushes and stems that can reveal enough information. For instance, elderberries look very similar to water hemlock berries that are highly poisonous. Water hemlock has greenish herbaceous stems while the stems of elderberries are woody. Use your guide where needed to spot the difference. It is recommended not to eat the berries if you are confused regarding its edibleness since taking chances on your well being may not be the best idea, especially if you are in the wild.
Some common features that indicate poisonous wild berries are:
- Milky sap
- Hairy stems
- Bitter stems
8. Taste the berries
As a last resort, you can taste the wild berry and let its flavour speak for its edibleness. Remember, you only have to taste and not ingest the wild berry. Ingesting will spread the poison in your body that can eventually be proved deadly. If the taste of a berry seems somewhat sweet or familiar, then chances are the berries are safe. However, if the flavor is bitter, unpleasant or unfamiliar, it could most likely be a poisonous one so spit it out at once. If symptoms like pain, nausea, abdomen cramps do not occur, then most likely the berry is safe to eat.
Generally, you’ll be poisoned by the wild berries only if you ingest them. However, there are a few kinds of berries that are an exception to this. For instance, poison ivy can be proved fatal even if tasted. Poison should not be your only worry when planning to feed on wild berries. Few wild berries are although not poisonous but are acidic enough to make you sick, for example, American mountain ash. Such berries should be avoided to consume raw. However, they can be eaten when cooked with meals.
9. Does it cause irritation?
Another indicator of poisonous wild berries is that they may irritate the skin when rubbed on. Crush a berry and rub its juice the skin. Wait for some time and notice if the berry juice has caused any irritation on the skin. If it does irritate, this indicates that the berry is poisonous and not fit to eat. However, this doesn’t mean that the berries that do not cause skin irritation are necessarily non-poisonous.
10. Avoid herbicide plants
Chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides can turn fine berries into poisonous one. Therefore, smell the berry to figure out whether it is covered in chemicals or not. If yes, avoid the berry at all cost. However, if you are in doubt, its best to rinse the berry clean with water before eating.
11. Don’t follow the animals
Note that if animals consume a particular wild berry, it does not implies that the berry is safe for human consumption as well. It is for the basic reason that humans and other animals have contrasting digestive capabilities.
Remember to eat only a small quantity of wild berries that too if necessary. Even if you do not observe any signs or symptoms that the berry is a poisonous one, its recommended to eat only enough to keep you alive. Otherwise, there is no need to risk it. If you notice any symptoms of toxicity such as vomiting, nausea, shock or hallucinations, then it’s time to visit a doctor or call poison control at once.
Below are some common poisonous wild berries that you must avoid.
Poisonous wild berries
Mistletoes are widely used for Christmas decorations. They have white and sometimes pink berries grown in the form of clusters. Not only the berries but leaves and the entire plant is toxic and must not be eaten. In fact, the leaves of mistletoe are more toxic than its berries. Even though a small number of berries if eaten won’t cause much harm, but still you’ll be able to feel symptoms such as stomach cramps and blurred vision. One must avoid ingesting a large amount of the mistletoe berries.
This wild wine produces berries that resemble a lot like grape and is therefore often confused for grapes. Wild grapes are safe to eat. However, it is poisonous all the way from stem to root. Similarly, the berries are toxic enough and can be fatal if ingested enough. The chief toxic in moonseed is an alkaloid named dauricine.
Wild grapes may taste sweet or sour; meanwhile, moonseed berries have an awful taste. Also, moonseed does not have spiked tendrils, unlike grapevine. Therefore, if you come across such a plant with the stated features, avoid it at all cost even if you are in doubt.
- Holly berries
Holly berries contain an alkaloid named theobromine that is common to caffeine and chocolate. Eating these berries in large amounts could prove to be fatal. Therefore, its best to keep these berries out of reach from kids and animals as well.
A chokecherry plant is known for its wide canopies and beautiful shapes. They are common in most of the world, especially U.S. However, most of us might not realize that the berries that chokecherries produce are highly toxic to both animals and humans. Although the flesh of chokecherry berries are safe to consume, the seeds contain a toxic chemical known as glycoside which is somewhat similar to cyanide that can cause death if ingested in large amounts. If enough seeds are eaten, you may start feeling its symptoms such as vomiting, headaches, high blood pressure and dizziness.
- Jerusalem cherry
Jerusalem cherries store solanocapsine, which is responsible for causing vomiting and gastric problems if ingested. These berries have a lot of resemblance with orange cherry tomatoes and therefore can be mistaken for tomatoes by the children. Moreover, these berries are also toxic to some animals and birds.
Pokeweed is mainly found in open areas, roadside and pastures in the form of a wide bushy plant that shows quick growth. It has a strong taproot, purple berries with large leaves and produces berries mainly in fall. Entire plant along with the berries are extremely toxic and can prove hazardous if ingested. There have been cases of livestock to be poisoned due to feeding on pokeweed leaves. Therefore, immediately destroy pokeweed if you found it growing on your property.
- Yew seeds
The yew berry seeds are considered to be highly poisonous that can cause death in a very short time. The yew seeds contain a poisonous alkaloid named taxenes. This alkaloid has the highest composition in the seed; meanwhile, the fruit itself does not contains taxenes. Although the flesh itself is edible, still you must eat only in a small amount that too if necessary for survival.
- White Baneberry
Also known as the doll’s eyes, white baneberry can easily be identified due to its distinctive white berry with a black pupil at the centre. The baneberry plant has pink stems giving it an attractive look. The entire plant is toxic and composes of a chemical called cardiogenic that can potentially cause cardiac arrest if eaten. The symptoms of poisoning by baneberry include stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, and burning sensations.
- Ivy berries
All species of ivy berries have some composition of poison and therefore are best to be avoided. Ivy berries stores needle-like crystals named oxalates known for causing swelling and pain in the face, lips and skin. Kinds of ivy berries include poison ivy, English creepers and Boston ivy, all of which are considered to be toxic and unsafe to eat.
- Castor bean plant
Found mainly in tropical regions of East Africa, castor bean plant is easily one of the most toxic and deadly plants known. They typically grow in moist soil and farm fields. The castor bean plant’s seeds contain a deadly toxin called ricin. Ricin is known to be one of the most deadly natural toxic. Ingesting only as much as four seeds is enough to kill an adult. Consuming only one seed can result in symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and nausea. If by chance you have this plant growing in your yard, remove it at once, especially if you have children, pets or livestock.
Edible wild berries
- Wintergreen berries
Wintergreen is among the groundcover plants with dark green leaves and produces red berries. These berries are also named as teaberries that are perfectly edible and are used in making some flavours of ice-creams and muffins.
Gooseberries are native to North America, Asia and some parts of Europe. They are small round berries and come in varying colours like red, purple and green. Their bushes can extend up to 1 to 1.8 meters in height. Gooseberries are available in both sweet and sour flavours. They are eaten raw and also used in making preserves, jams and wines. Moreover, they provide a decent dose of vitamin C and fibre due to the presence of an antioxidant named protocatechuic acid.
- Manzanita berries
Manzanita berries come with silver and green ovals. Although the berries taste somewhat unpleasant due to the presence of tannin, however, manzanita berries have long been used for the production of cider.
Chokeberries, not to be confused with chokecherries, are typically found in eastern North America. A chokeberry shrub is medium-sized ranging from 5 to 7 feet in height. The berries preserve a sweet taste and show numerous health advantages as well. Chokeberries are known to help prevent cancer and some cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, its juice and is sold as a health drink. Also, chokeberries, due to their sweet taste, are often used to make jams and preserves.
Partridgeberries mainly grow in North America and eastern Canada. They are dark red and resembles a lot like cranberries but a bit smaller in size. Partridgeberries contains a decent amount of pectin, for which it is commonly used for making preserves and chutneys. Moreover, Partridgeberries were used to ease childbirth in the past. Therefore, they are safe to consume and are often cooked with chicken.
Mulberries have a very sturdy tree whose branches have been known to be used as stakes. They are abundant in nature, and you might have seen it a lot in the urban environment. Mulberries are present in both red, dark-purple and white colours. They are juicy, sweet, soft and look a lot like a blackberry. Since they are very soft and fragile, they are not commonly supplied to stores. The berries are made into jams, jellies, and their juice is also drunk. Moreover, they also have a good dose of vitamin C and fibre.
- Saskatoon berries
Saskatoon tree grows to a maximum height of 27 feet, and the berries it produces are perfectly edible. Saskatoon berries are sweet with a nutty flavour and are purple. They can be consumed fresh or dried into making jams. Moreover, they are used in making cider, wines and pies as well. Saskatoon berries are a good source of vitamin B2 that aids our body in energy production.
You will find them growing here and there. Watch out for faux strawberries aka snake berries.
Muscadines fruit hail from a high-climbing grapevine having spiked tendrils. They have yellowish-green flowers that bloom in early spring. Muscadine fruit has a sweet taste and can be eaten raw. Also, it is used to make juices, jams and jellies. Moreover, the leaves if muscadines are also used in salads after cooking. The dietary fibre enclosed inside the muscadine grapes helps to regulate blood’s cholesterol level.
Rosehips are produced on wild roses. These berries are red and usually grow in hedgerows. They contain a high volume of vitamin C for which they have long been consumed. However, they are ideally processed for making jelly and other products. Remember to get rid of its seed before ingesting because the seed consists of microscopic hairs that can irritate the mouth when eaten.
Elderberries are commonly found in subtropical regions and grow in the form of clusters in black or purple colors. They come with a tart taste for which they are cooked to make them into jams, wine and chutneys. They have to be sweetened by cooking or drying in the sun to remove the bitterness. Elderberries have a decent amount of vitamin C and particularly aids in boosting our immune system.
|Berry||Calories per cup|
Complete Guide – https://practicalselfreliance.com/edible-wild-berries-fruits/
What to do if a poisonous wild berry is ingested?
Wildlife produces a variety of deciduous trees, bushes and shrubs that give rise to many bright-coloured berries. These berries often attract animals, birds and sometimes humans as well. However, what we may not realize that many such wild berries are toxic to humans and domestic animals. Therefore, feeding on them may prove to be deadly or cause serious health issues and illnesses. Such poisonous wild berries grow all over the world in one form or another, especially in the wilderness. Therefore, we must avoid eating them intentionally or accidentally. However, if by accident, one ingests poisonous wild berries, it’s time to realize the severity of the situation and act fast as the very life of that person may be depending upon it.
- Know the symptoms
The first step in knowing whether or not you have accidentally ingested a toxic wild berry is to notice the symptom that you may be feeling after eating the berry.
Many of the evergreen shrubs, such as yew and holly, are toxic to some extent. Eating them will give rise to symptoms like:
- Respiratory distress
- Stomach cramps
- nervousness, dizzyness
In the worst-case scenario, it may even cause death. Each berry may hold a different set of symptoms at varying severity level. For instance, eating holly berries may cause nausea, drowsiness, diarrhea and vomiting. Yew berries may bring on more severe consequences such as breathing difficulty, drowsiness, abdomen cramps, vomiting or even death.
Most of the deciduous trees are known to produce edible wild berries. However, some evergreen berries are toxic to humans and some animals. Such toxic berries include red and white baneberry, few species of daphne, Brazilian nightshade, red sage, and jasmine evergreen berries. All of the above toxic wild berries can cause symptoms like:
- Respiratory and digestive disturbance
- Skin irritation
- Burning sensation
Not to forget, some of these berries can have fatal consequences as well.
- Immediate treatment
As soon as you realize the berry you just ate might be poisonous, spit it out and remove any portion of the berry still left in your mouth. Check if any swelling, burning sensation or irritation is taking place that would suggest that the poison has started taking its effect.
Next, call the poison control center immediately whether the symptoms have appeared or not.
After doing so, wash out your mouth thoroughly and drink a few sips of milk or water. Collect a piece of the particular toxic berry that you are and keep it with yourself when you leave for the hospital. This would allow the doctors to get a better idea of the kind of poison that you might have ingested. This way, they can start the treatment at once.
- Call the poison control center
If children or even adult accidentally ingest toxic berries or other toxic parts of the plant, it’s time to seek medical assistance as soon as possible to restrict the damage. You can do so by immediately calling the poison control centre of your locality. Such places are usually open 24/7 and therefore will respond accordingly. They have their staff typically consisting of doctors, nurses and pharmacists along with other experts who will firstly guide you on the phone what to do at the moment.
The staff at the poison control center will explain how to respond at the spot if a toxic berry or plant has poisoned you. Also, they’ll give you any other information or advice related to the topic under discussion if needed. Thus, their advice might be enough to treat yourself without visiting a hospital. Look for the contact number of your area’s poison control center and keep it saved with yourself, especially when going on outdoor trips.
Whether you are a wilderness lover or a home gardener, you may never know whether the plants and berries that you came across daily or occasionally might be poisonous. If such wild berries are ingested, they are able enough to either cause serious health problems or death to both children and adults. Therefore, such berry plants must be dealt with utmost seriousness to ensure the safety of your children, pet and yourself. To prevent any such poison from reaching to your body, you can follow some general safety tips.
- Identifying the berries
A forehand knowledge of the wild berries and their plants that grow in your garden, locality or wilderness can help you a great deal. You can do so by consulting your local wildlife community office, nearby greenhouse or through the internet. Once you have the essential knowledge needed, next time you don’t have to wonder whether a certain wild berry is edible or not before eating it.
If you have a problem memorizing all the tiny details, you can keep a book or guide with yourself whenever you go out in the wilderness or for a hike. For your garden, you can use weather-proof tags with the name of the certain plant written on it and embed it on the shrub. This way you won’t forget the name of the plant or the type of berry it produces.
- Don’t eat unless you’re sure
Whether it is a wild berry or some mushroom, don’t even bring it close to the mouth unless you are certain that it is safe to eat. If you find yourself in a survival situation in the wild, taking chances with the wild berries might not be the best choice. This is because many toxic wild berries look just like the berries that are considered safe to eat. Therefore, restrain yourself from feeding on wild berries if you feel like you still have to guess whether it’s edible or not.
- Remove poisonous berry plants from your garden
Once you have the required knowledge on toxic berries, you can easily point out which wild berries are to be prevented. Having done so, now you’ll know which plants in your garden or area impose a threat. Therefore, to keep your children or others around you safe, you can remove all such toxic berry plants from your garden.
- Keep the children safe
Understandably, some toxic wild berry plants such as mistletoe are used for decorations. You might be growing them yourself so might not want to remove them. So, what you can do is encapsulate such berry plants with plant protectors or row covers and label them with their name. Dictate your children not to go near them and keep an eye out for them as well. Also, teach your children how to differentiate between edible and non-edible wild berries.