How to tell if a wild berry is edible or non-edible?

Updated July 20, 2017

Many berries that grow in the wild are tasty and harmless if eaten. If you are on a hiking trip or camping in the wild, and stumble upon a bush full of luscious looking berries, you may be tempted to eat a handful. Although many are safe to eat, be aware that some berries are poisonous. Stay safe in the wild by knowing if a berry is edible or non-edible.

Examine the wild berry and the plant that it is growing on. Note the size, shape and colour of the berry. Count the number of leaves on one of the branches. Check the size and shape of the leaves, along with the colour. Stay away from berries that are white or yellow.

Consult a field guide to find a description of the berries and plant. Use a field guide that has colour photos in order to make identification more accurate. Compare the physical characteristics that you have noted about the berries and plant with the information in the field guide. Use the comparison to determine if the berry is edible or non-edible.

Eat just one or two of the berries if you have established that the berries are edible. Use purified bottled water to rinse the fruit before you eat it. Wait at least two hours for the berries to digest in case you have a reaction to the fruit before eating additional berries.


Do not use a field guide to determine if a wild berry is poisonous after you have eaten it. If you think that you may have eaten something questionable, get help immediately. Contact the nearest poison control centre at once and give detailed information about the berry.

Things You'll Need

  • Field guide
  • Bottled water
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About the Author

Sarah S. Terry began writing grants and reports for nonprofit and government agencies in 2002. She specializes in coverage of personal finance and education. In 2002, she had a chapter published in “Academic Writing: Stepping Stones to the Profession.” Terry holds a B.A. in sociology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and an M.P.A. from Jacksonville State University.