They say that the best things in life are free – and when it comes to Mother Nature, that’s definitely the case!
Some of the tastiest treats out there can easily be found sprouting from the ground along any forest, field or mountain path. And that goes double when it comes to berries.
Indeed, these juicy fruits are widely-known for their pickable natures.
Typically, when people think about foraging berries, the famous trio of straw- blue- and black- come to mind. And, indeed, these routinely rank as some of the most delicious – and recognizable – wild produce out there. (We’d like to take a moment, however, to emphasis the importance of “recognizable.” While foraging food is fun – and free! – it’s extremely important to know what you’re dealing with before deciding to ingest anything. One wrong move could leave you in the hospital – or worse.)
But we here at FruitStand are firm believers that variety is the spice of life. There are plenty of other lesser-known berries out there that are just bursting with deliciousness – and practically begging to get picked.
Some of the best wild berries include:
These North American natives almost look like tiny tomatoes – bursting out from their shrubby pack of leaves in bundles of bright red. (You might also recognize the plant from its flowers, which sprout a dainty pale yellow.)
While edible, their bitter flavor is definitely an acquired taste, so these antioxidant-rich babies are most typically turned into something sweet like jam, jelly or syrup.
You definitely won’t have to choke down these delicious berries.
Chokeberries almost resemble blueberries, repping the same deep indigo shade and compact, round shape. They’re not quite as sweet as their more-famous cousins, but still make a popular choice for making jams, jellies, juices and even wines.
Named after their shape, these puffy little delights come in striking shades of orangey-red and, aside from their namesake, also resemble the shape of a raspberry.
Their flavor pallet is reminiscent of raspberries, too, but a bit sweeter overall and with a few more floral notes. Their yummy taste makes them easy to eat raw – though, like many other berries, they also often find themselves mixed into sweet spreads.
These popular berries are deep and dark, maturing to a nearly-black hue and dangling from bright red branches.
They’re also noted for their particularly tangy taste, making them popular stars of wines, juices and chutneys. But be careful: Eating elderberries raw could lead to some less-than-pleasant experiences. Make sure you cook them down before enjoying a bite.
European or American, green, red or purple, and tangy or sweet – these berries truly represent the variety pack.
You’ll get a different combination of flavor and color depending on the cultivar, but regardless of which type of gooseberry you end up with, you’ll have a delicious and particularly nutritious little bite that’s good in everything from jam to pie.
Like the famous literary character that took their name, these berries are particularly fond of the water, with huckleberries tending to pop up in bogs and lake basins across North America.
Taste-wise, they land more on the tart side of sweet, but they’re still wonderful when eaten raw – or made into a jam, pudding, candy or syrup.
The nursery rhyme star (or street name subject of a Dr. Seuss book, if that’s more your speed) is as odd-looking as its presence in those rhyming tales would suggest.
Elongated, irregularly bumpy and coming in shades anywhere between purple and red, these fruits are pretty easy to recognize. But don’t judge the book by the cover: They’re delectably sweet and juicy, making them a top pick for everything from pie filling to herbal tea.
They may look like a grape – and, technically, be members of the grapevine family – but don’t let that fool you. These unique berries offer a whole different experience.
Muscadines have a sweet-meets-earthy taste that comes off much more plummish than berry- or grape-like. Still, they have the similar thick skins and color pallet that ranges from a beautiful deep red to a striking light green.
The most common berry you’ve never heard of, pawpaw sprouts up naturally in nearly half of the United States. And it’s worth taking the time to look for these hidden-in-plain-sight delights.
Pawpaws have a truly tropical flavor pallet, tasting something more like a mix of mango and banana than the berries you’re used to. Their look is also quite exotic: Coming in a light green, kidney-shaped package that likely no one would suspect tastes like a day at the beach!
These beautiful berries – named after the Canadian providence where they’re most likely found – blossom into a striking pinkish-purple color and a perfectly round shape.
Their flavor is just as lovely, coming in sweet and nutty, making these berries a fantastic pick to eat raw. Of course, though, like nearly every other member of the berry family, they almost as regularly find themselves in the trail mix mix, baked into pies, or adding their sweet flavor to jams and wines.
Of course, not all things in nature play nice. And that also goes double when it comes to berries.
The plants are nearly as notorious for their poisonous aspects as their sweet sides. (Talk about two-faced!)
So when you’re out foraging for the good stuff, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the bad stuff. Some of the wild berries you should definitely avoid include:
The nightshade family is famous in the fruit world for its toxic traits, and these berries may be among the worst the family has to offer.
Small, taut and blossoming in shades of red, green and orange, these berries are known for such charming side-effects as GI infections, stomach cramps and causing an irregular heartbeat.
They may look beautiful on all those winter decorations, but these berries are not nearly as jolly as the holiday season.
In fact, the little bright red bulbs can cause everything from nausea and vomiting to severe stomach cramps if ingested.
Look but don’t touch: These berries are as toxic as they are beautiful.
Blossoming in lovely shades of purple and orange, ivy berries, like many others on this list, are known for their harsh stomach reactions, including cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
Great for getting kissed – not so much for feeling good.
In fact, despite their connection to the cozy holiday season, mistletoe berries are among some of the worst, side effects-wise, responsible for the more common stomach and GI issues but also capable of impacting the brain, kidneys and adrenal glands in some very unpleasant ways.
They may look like grapes, but they most certainly don’t act like them.
Unlike their lookalikes, which so generously give us wine and jam, pokeweed berries are packed with powerful toxins that could wreak all sorts of internal havoc – and even cause death. And the more mature these berries get, the more toxic their insides become.
But with berries like much else in life, there’s plenty of good to go around – as long as you’re careful!