Winter Foraging: Barberry

Here’s a quick tip for winter foraging: barberries are edible.

Barberry is a short, thorny bush that’s been used to decoration for a long time. That’s the main reason why they’re so widespread and basically invasive. There’s a native variety, but most of what we see is the Japanese barberry that’s been used for so long in decorative landscaping.

The berries are edible and fairly tart. I mostly eat them in winter, since by then the very small amount of sweetness has developed. I can usually find them through the late fall and early, sometimes mid winter where I live.

I’ve seen that the leaves are supposed to be edible too, but I haven’t tried them and I guess I’ll have to wait until spring to find out if I like them.

Aside from the edible fruit, the inner bark of the root is useful for making a crude antibiotic, since it contains a fair amount of a compound called berberine. Look for the inner bark and wood that’s strongly tinted yellow.

Enjoy!


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