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How to identify wild berries

Updated February 21, 2017

If you go backpacking into the wilderness, then it's important to learn many survival skills, including foraging for food. You may get lost or misplace your backpack or simply run out of food. There are many different types of edible wild berries that can be found in the woods. Some of the most common are blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, elderberries, blueberries, wild cherries and juneberries.

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  1. Learn where to look for edible wild berries. Most of them can be found in low-lying berry bushes and low fruit trees. Some berries can also be found in meadows, river and pond margins, farm fields and even in marshes. Summer is the best time of year for these berries to appear, but they can be found in the spring, autumn and winter depending on the region.

  2. Find blackberries and raspberries, which are either red, black, yellow or orange. They are usually found in the sunny areas of the woods near lakes, streams and roads. The edible fruit grows during the summer and you're likely to find these all over the British Isles.

  3. Look for cranberries in acidic soils or in bogs, especially if you're visiting colder regions. They can also be found in low-lying shrubs. They are small, round and red just like the cranberries found in the supermarket. Most cranberries are tart in flavor and hard until cooked.

  4. Search for the white blossoms of elderberries either in wet woodlands, or along trails or field margins. The dark red-purple berries grow during the summer and autumn, and they are best eaten when ripe and juicy. Only the blossoms and fruit are edible; other parts of the plant are poisonous.

  5. Seek blueberries that are round and dark blue to black with small seeds. You are likely to find these wild blueberries in open, sunny meadows. They can be eaten raw or cooked.

  6. Find wild cherries growing at the end of low-lying cherry tree branches or on wild bushes. They're usually about a 6 mm (1/4 inch) round, and are bright red to bluish black. Wild cherries are commonly found all over the UK. Even if some of the cherries are slightly sour, they are still edible.

  7. Learn to identify juneberries. They are dark red to purple and shaped like an oversized blueberry, or they look like smaller versions of strawberries. Juneberries grow on 6 m (20 foot) tall trees near streams. The fruit is best during midsummer to late summer.

  8. Tip

    Take a field guide with you on your backpacking trip if you're inexperienced. This will help distinguish the edible berries from the poisonous ones before you pick them. You can buy these books at a bookshop or online.


    Avoid any berries that are grown on vines because most of these are poisonous. Vine fruit comes in clusters like grapes, and are dark blue or red. Stay away from any plants with red foliage or stems since most of them are poisonous. Also, some of the berries may be edible, but other parts of the plant are not. Don't pick any hard white berries or those that are orange-red. These berries, which are found on tall trees, are usually poison ivy.

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About the Author

This article was created by a professional writer and edited by experienced copy editors, both qualified members of the Demand Media Studios community. All articles go through an editorial process that includes subject matter guidelines, plagiarism review, fact-checking, and other steps in an effort to provide reliable information.

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