Find out here which wild berries you can collect in this country throughout the year.
Red berries can be seen all year round on green bushes in the park or in the forest, and demonstrate nature’s diverse spectrum of colours. But even if the colours are tempting, not all fruits are edible for humans. Have you ever wondered which berries are safe to eat and when you can harvest these power fruits? You can find out about that and get tips on preparation and storage here.
From a botanical point of view, berries belong to the indehiscent fruits. This means that the edible fruiting body develops from only one origin – the ovary. The full-grown berries often contain many seeds, like the blackcurrant. Often used synonymously is the term soft fruit. But it is worth noting, soft fruit is a collective name for fruits that resemble berries due to their visual appearance.
Red fruits in the wild – a guide to harvesting
Wild, edible berries include elderberries, raspberries and blackberries. The elderberry is a drupe, raspberries and blackberries belong to the aggregate drupes. In a broader sense, blueberries, sloes and the hawthorn can also be called soft fruits due to the visual appearance of the fruit. Most berries can be harvested in late summer but you can also get a free vitamin C hit from nature on a winter walk. Here is a selection of berries and their harvesting times:
- Blueberries: July–August
- Raspberries and blackberries: August–September
- Elderberry: September–October
- Sloes: September–December
- Hawthorn: October–December
Those who associate blueberries (bilberries) only with Nordic countries are in fact mistaken. The small tasty berries can also be found in many places throughout Europe. These berries prefer peaty soil and are often found in coniferous forests. Unlike the blueberries found in supermarkets, the wild berries often have a purplish flesh.
Raspberries and blackberries are ready to harvest in late summer. Whereas the blackberry is rampantly prevalent along roadsides and in parks from August and throughout Autumn, you’ll probably have to keep more of an eye out for raspberries. The pinkish-red fruit can be sporadically found in forests. But it isn’t only the fruit of these delicious berries that you can enjoy: the green leaves of raspberry and blackberry bushes can also be eaten. It is best to collect the young leaves in the spring. At this stage, the leaves are still very tender and can be added to a fresh salad as a special secret ingredient. Furthermore, the young shoots can also be air dried or put in a dehydrator at a maximum of 40 °C and used to make fruity tea.
Small, plump elderberries can also be found along roadsides. Elderberry bushes usually grow quite high and bear a lot of fruit. A tip for the harvest: take a fork with you and use it to quickly and easily comb the elderberries from the bush. Simple! Sloes start to appear in late autumn. But waiting to harvest them till after the first frost is worth it. This is because the starch contained in the berries transforms into more readily available sugar molecules after the first frost. This means that sloe berries are all the sweeter after frosty nights. So you need a little patience for this crop! The white flowering shrub of the hawthorn bears orange-red fruit in the autumn. The shrub is often found along grassy paths and in parks. When collecting these berries, make sure to wear gloves to avoid injuring yourself on the hawthorn’s spiky thorns.
The wild fruits mentioned above are easily recognisable because of their uniqueness. Only elderberry has an evil twin that you should steer clear of: dwarf elder. At first glance the berries of the bushes resemble each other, however, the berries grow in a different direction in each of the two species. In the case of the true elderberry, the berries all hang down, whereas those of the dwarf elder grow upwards. A look at the leaves helps further spot the edible elderberries: elderberry leaves have a serrated edge. In addition, the berries of elderberry exude a sweet fragrance in contrast to its poisonous counterpart. However, even with elderberry, you should avoid eating the raw berries in large quantities. Find out more about this in the section on preparation. Generally it is important to harvest only those berries that you can identify and are sure are not poisonous.
Everyone is told when they are kids about the dangers of the tapeworm when they are out collecting wild berries. But what exactly is the tapeworm and how high is the risk of contracting a disease? Tapeworm is a zoonosis. These are diseases that can be transmitted by pathogens from animals to humans and vice versa. In the case of the tapeworm, it is a parasite that can colonise the digestive tract of animals such as foxes and martens. The eggs of the tapeworm can attach themselves to low-lying shrubs in the forest via animal excrement and can pose a potential health risk to humans if they are ingested in a large number. However, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than get sick from this tapeworm. Despite this, you can prevent infection by only picking berries that grow at waist hight or above. You can further avoid any problems by thoroughly washing your hands and your harvested berries. In particular, heating the fruit above 60 °C protects against infection.
Preparation and storage of soft fruit
Have you got a craving for juicy berries? All of the wild berries we listed above can be made into delicious jam. Raspberries and blackberries can also be added to fresh drinks in the summer. Why not add a few of the freshly harvested and washed berries to a pitcher of mineral water. Combined with fresh mint leaves, they provide a healthy and delicious alternative to sugary sodas and iced teas. Or try the berries whole or as a wonderful purée mixed into your morning cereal, porridge or smoothie.
Berries are best eaten fresh, but if you would like to store your hoard for longer, you can keep the washed and slightly dried berries in your BioFresh Fruit & Vegetable Safe. Frozen, the berries will keep for up to 12 months in your Liebherr freezer compartment – giving you the opportunity to sweeten cold winter days with colourful berries. As an added bonus, most nutrients are largely retained during freezing. However, after thawing, the berries have a softer texture than when freshly picked. This is down to the high water content of the berries: the water expands as it freezes and therefore so to do the berries. After thawing, the stretched cell walls slacken and the fruits become softer. Dried berries keep even longer. Use dried berries as a tea or grind them down into berry powder – be creative and try something new!
In the case of elderberry and sloes, it is essential to heat the berries before eating them. This is because these berries contain toxic substances called cyanogenic glycosides. In the case of elderberry it is sambunigrin and in sloes there is amygdalin. These substances cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps if the raw berries are consumed in excess. Particular caution is advised here in regard to children, as their bodies have an even lower tolerance to the cyanogenic glycosides. Heating the berries up to over 70 °C reduces the number of toxic compounds, and makes them safer to consume.
Some tips for preparing hawthorn and sloe berries: Be sure to strain the berries through a sieve after cooking to remove the larger seeds. And thanks to the high pectin content in the red fruits of the hawthorn, you also do not need any additional gelling agent.
When you take your next walk, make sure to keep an eye out for these delicious soft fruits. To be on the safe side, take along a screw-top jar or storage box to safely transport your precious stash and avoid crushing the berries.
#liebherr, #forestberries, #blackberry, #raspberry, #blueberry, #elderberry, #sloe, #hawthorn, #tapeworm, #harvest, #prussicacid, #toxicity, #glycosides