Foraging involves the act of searching and collecting food sources in the outdoors. Foraging enables wild life to survive and reproduce. Before the advent of industrialized food, agrarian societies produced their own food on individual plots of land. Hunter-gatherer societies would actually forage or collect wild edible foods found in their natural habitats. Some of these foods included wild edible berries. Berries come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors. Modern foragers find it delightful to find these delicacies; however, not every berry is suitable for consumption. In fact, some contain poisons that can potentially harm or even kill if ingested.
Edible berries contain essential nutrients important to the human body. For instance, blueberries contain essential vitamins A, C, and E, and provide trace amounts minerals, such as iron, copper, potassium, and calcium. Cranberries offer high amounts of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Wild edible berries provide an energy boost, and contribute to the fight of diseases through a rich antioxidant profile, especially raspberries. Raspberries contain lutein, a chemical-compound often found in plants, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration. Strawberries have a high phytonutrient content that fights off cancer cells.
Strawberries also regulate blood pressure through their potassium richness. Berries also consist of flavonoids, phytonutrients that protect against oxidative stress. Blackberries and acai berries have anthocyanins, which contribute to their dark, glossy color. Anthocyanins protect the brain against age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Acai berries are rich in omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, provide over 104 calories and 13 grams of fat per 10 oz serving. Huckleberries detoxify the body by regulating water balances and eliminating wastes. Huckleberries also help regulate insulin by aiding the pancreas in digesting sugars and starches.
Where Can I Find Wild Edible Berries?
Foragers can find wild edible berries in a variety of locations, including forested mountains and suburban hedgerows. Some berries may be harder to find than others. For instance, huckleberries typically grow in forested areas, whereas strawberries are discovered in woodlands. Other exotic berries can only be harvested in the furthermost regions, such as the acai berry, a native of the Amazon jungle. Wild goji berries grow in the Himalayas; however, large distributors cultivate them within the United States for grocery sales. Blueberries are native to North America, typically in wooded areas and brushes.
What the Different Uses for Berries?
Edible wild berries have an assortment of colors, tastes, textures, and uses. Wild berries can offer substantial health benefits that can help prevent and even combat diseases. People mostly cook berries and create a jam for breads. Others will add various species to foods for added flavor to an existing recipe. Research studies have suggested certain berries have anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties. For instance, blackberries contain Gallic acid and tannin, two major compounds that have been known to fight off diarrhea. Other medicinal purposes for blackberries include: relieving canker sores, upset stomach, fever, and more.
How Many Berry Species Exist, Anyway?
A diverse range of wild berries exist in nature, some edible and others inedible, and only flourish in certain regions. Notable edible berries may include: Salal, Western Tea Berry, Alaska Blueberry, Black Huckleberry, Dwarf Blueberry, Bog Cranberry, Hair Manzanita, Red Elderberry, Saskatoon Serviceberry, Salmonberry, Black Raspberry, Himalayan Blackberry, Dwarf Bramble, Dwarf Nagoonberry, Cloudberry, Woodland Strawberry, and Tall Oregon-grape. Poisonous berries tend to come as the minority, such as Holly, Yew, Pokeweed, Mistletoe, American Bittersweet, Juniper, Dogweed Tree, Honeysuckle, Pyracantha, and Cotoneaster. Generally, most poisonous berries will cause upset stomach, including nausea and vomiting; however, some can lead to potentially dangerous symptoms if left unchecked.
Follow these links to learn more about wild berries:
- Cornell University: Berries: An all-inclusive resource dedicated to outdoor berries, including information on production, pest management, post-harvest, food safety, enology, and other agricultural business-related guides. It also features several resources on identifying certain wild berries.
- Berry Health Benefits Network: Blackberries, Blueberries, Black Raspberries, and Strawberries Fact Sheet: Scientists have discovered that berries have the highest antioxidant levels of any other fruit measured in ORAC, including anthocyanins, antioxidants, catchins, dietary fiber, Ellagic acid, fiber, Gallic acid, phytonutrients, quercetin, rutin, salicylic acid, and vitamin c.
- The Poison Control Center: Berries and Seeds: A comprehensive list of inedible berries and seeds found in the wild, including holly, yew, pokeweed, mistletoe, american bittersweet, juniper, dogwood tree, honeysuckle, pyracantha, cotoneaster, and wild strawberries.
- Common Poisonous Plants and Plant Parts: An educational resource on common poisonous plants and plant parts.
- The Police Handbook: Plant Smarts: An extensive list of poisonous plants with detailed photos of each plant, including wisteria, privet, yew, azaleas, holly, hyacinth, rosary pea, oleander, caladium, English ivy, poinsettia, iris, lupine, black locust, oaks, mushrooms, jimsonweed, mistletoe, poke-weed, poison ivy, wild cherry, and potatoes.
- Trees with Attractive Berries, Fruit, and Seeds: An extensive list of tree species that produce edible and inedible berries, fruit, and seeds.
- Phytochemicals (PDF): Berries are chock full of phytochemicals, a natural bio-active compound found in plants that work with other nutrients and fiber to guard against diseases.
- Berry Nutrient Profiles (PDF): Berries have a high antioxidant profile designed to combat disease and aging. In fact, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, and raspberries are among some of the healthiest fruits available for human consumption.
- Blueberries: The World's Healthiest Foods provides a complete nutrient profile of blueberries, a high potency fruit chock full of antioxidants, free-radical combating compounds used to protect DNA cellular structures in the human body.
- What is Açaí, and Why is it so Great?: Chelsey Feldman discusses the dietary benefits of acai berry for one's health; however, it also delves into the over-hyped suggestions that it alone can promote weight loss.
- Strawberries and More: A web site strictly dedicated to the education of strawberries, including growing methods, combating insects and diseases during harvest, selecting and caring for crops, history and lore, nutrition, recipes, different strawberry farm locations, and various facts centered around strawberries.
- The Blackberry: The blackberry is a deciduous crop that grows better in warmer climates. This abstract paper describes every aspect about blackberries found in Florida, including the various cultivars, site selection and preparation tips, planting and spacing suggestions, pollination background, propagation, fertilization, irrigation, pruning, and harvesting methods.
- Selecting, Preparing and Canning Fruit: Whole Berries: An educational web site providing selection, preparation, and canning methods for whole berries.
- Berries, Grapes & Kiwi: A resource guide providing detailed information regarding berries, grapes and kiwi, including their native culture and landscape, pest control and other related problems, and general practices to grow and preserve these fruits.
- A Bountiful Blueberry: An informative article about the abundance of anti-cancerous benefits of the state's abundant blueberries.
- Food Preservation Series (PDF): A comprehensive document detailing food preservation methods of raspberries, including storage techniques, food safety tips, freezing and canning suggestions.
- Aronia Berries (PDF): A deciduous shrub native to the North East, also known as the black choke berry, contains high levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids. In fact, the concentration of anthocyanins found in aronia berries exceeds the amount found in cranberries.
- Cape Gooseberry: An extensive profile of the fruit called cape gooseberry, including its origins, distribution, pollination, climate, soil, propagation, culture, season, harvesting and yield, storage quality, pest control, food uses, and toxicity levels.
- Freezing Fruits & Berries (PDF): A complete document providing nutrition facts, food pyramid guide, vocabulary, and packaging methods for quality foods.
- Gooseberries and Currants (PDF): An authoritative resource guide on gooseberries, currants, and jostaberries. Including seeding, growing, harvesting, packaging, and preserving these delicate fruits.