Wild Edible Plants - Fruits and Berries
Chokecherries, Prunus virginiana, have a tart, refreshing flavor and can be eaten raw or made into jam, jelly, or fruit leather. Watch for them to start ripening in August.
Caution! All other parts of the chokecherry, including the pits, contain cyanide, and if consumed can cause serious poisoning or death. Also, be certain of proper identification. Invasive Bittersweet berries look similar, but are also poisonous!
There are a number of varieties of wild grapes, Vitus spp.. The photo at top left shows Frost grapes, which taste similar to cultivated Concord grapes, and are rather tart until after a hard frost, when they become much sweeter. The top-right photo shows Fox grapes. These grapes have a hidden surprise. During the first split second when you bite into one, it will taste like fox urine! Then before you have time to react, they become deliciously sweet, far surpassing the unpleasantness of the initial surprise!
Elderberries can be tough to spot, so watch for the bright blossoms, (above right,) to appear on bushes along roadsides and the edges of fields in July. The berries should not be eaten in great quantities raw, but can be made into elderberry jam or wine. Warning! Red Elder berries are poisonous! Use a good field guide for proper identification.
If you are very persistant and somewhat lucky, you may one day find Dwarf Raspberries, (Rubus pubescens.) They are small, ground hugging plants, have three leaves similar to wild strawberry, and grow in secluded damp, shady places. The best tasting, and most beautiful of all bramble berries, they are usually eaten by wild turkeys just as they ripen.
Considered a pesky invasive by many, European Barberry is spreading rapidly across the country. The berries, shown above, can be made into a uniquely delicious jam. If you haven't seen one of these shrubs yet, just wait. There will be a bush or two in your neighborhood, soon!. Watch out for the almost invisible, sharp thorns!
Black Raspberries, Rubus occidentalis, along with blackberries and red raspberries are fairly common, easily identified, and deliciously sweet when ripe.
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