If you're looking to forage for berries, a guide to edible berries is essential. Guide books or websites provide photographs to make identification easier, as well as growth, habitat, range and other important information to help you correctly identify edible wild berries. Proper wild berry identification prevents mistaking a common edible from a poisonous variety. Also, if you want to cultivate berries, a good guide to edible berries will help you select varieties that will thrive in your area.
Choosing a Guide to Edible Berries
There are many ways to find information on edible berries, whether you're looking to forage for wild berries or seek information on types of berries that will thrive in your gardening zone.
Wild Berry Identification
Many people seek wild berries because of their purported health properties. Some theorize that wild berries contain more antioxidants than their cultivated cousins simply because as wild plants, they have to fend off more attacks. Wild plants are thought to develop more natural defenses, which translate into higher antioxidant counts than coddled backyard varieties.
Some wild berry varieties are easy to spot. Blackberries grow abundantly along fence rows in rural areas. Blueberries also abound in many parts of the country. Other wild berries that are easy to spot are strawberries, since they look exactly like the garden variety strawberry, albeit a bit smaller.
If you're looking for guides to wild berry identification, try:
- Books: Many guidebooks provide color photographs, descriptions, and expert advice. Peterson's Field Guides are the standard. Their size makes them easy to slip into a backpack while hiking, and the color plates clearly show the plant for easy identification.
- Websites: Many websites provide guidance on finding wild berries. Mother Earth News provides an article on the topic, and Shaw Nature also has pictures and descriptions of wild edibles. As when using a guidebook, if you're uncertain whether something is edible or not - don't eat it. Stick with easy to identify berries for your first foraging expeditions.
Edible Berries in the Garden
Many berries provide wonderful health benefits. Grape seed oil, grape seed extract and cranberries are well-known for their health benefits. Other berries that provide good health boosts include blueberries.
A guide to edible berries will include certain facts.
- The common and Latin name of the berry plant. The Latin name is important, because it is unique and used worldwide to identify that particular plant. Common names for plants can change with the region or country, but the Latin name remains the same.
- A photograph of the berry and the plant.
- A detailed description of the conditions needed to grow the plant. Light, soil types, moisture requirements and gardening zone information are all essential to growing your own edible berries, and are included in many guides.
Grow Your Own
Most people can grow their own berries no matter what size garden they have. You'll need full sun, defined as six or more hours a day of direct sunlight. If all the space you have is a deck, balcony or patio, try growing berries such as blueberries or strawberries in pots. Special strawberry jars provide pockets to tuck in plants so that you can fit more in the space available.
For more information on growing your own berries, visit this berry resource center.
Health Benefits of Berries
Whether you choose wild berries or cultivate your own, berries contain many important health benefits.
- Vitamin C: Berries are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C. One cup of strawberries contains more than one day's worth of vitamin C for the average person. Rose hips, the seed of the rose bush and often considered a berry, are rich in vitamin C too.
- Lutein: Some berries, such as blueberries and raspberries, contain lutein. Lutein helps prevent age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease. It can also help improve eyesight.
- Flavanoids: Berries contain flavanoids, a type of antioxidant.
- Fiber: Berries are rich in fiber, which creates a feeling of fullness, helps regular digestion and elimination, and may prevent some types of colon cancer.
In addition to these benefits, berries also show promise to ward off bladder infections. Cranberries and cranberry juice contain certain properties that prevent bacteria from causing bladder infections. Many types of berries have been studied in the fight against cancer, and research in this area is promising.
From the sweet ruby strawberries to the glistening purple grape, berries contain an abundance of properties to keep us health. Grow your own, or forage for them in the wild. Find a good guide to berries and reap the benefits.