10 Other Berries to Be Aware Of

Since arriving in the temperate climate, I’ve been so excited about the idea of growing berries that I’ve been compiling lists of what—besides the common stuff—I might want to grow. We all know strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and Chuck Berry (i.e., “Johnny B. Goode”), but these are other berries that we can and should consider including in the garden.

Some of them are delightfully tasty, some of them mystically nutritious, and all of them are viable, perennial options for temperate permaculture food forests and polyculture gardens. In this collection, you’ll find things that improve the pantry, improve your health, and improve your disposition (Berries make some great wine).

In a word, there is a lot of fun to be had in the berry game, and there are a lot of niches for berries to fill in a design. Even with strawberries, blueberries, and the rest of the headliners, there is great diversity to be enjoyed, but the other berries open up entire new worlds. Some are sprawling trees. Some are great thorny hedges, suitable for natural fencing. Some are voracious, productive groundcovers.

Trees

Productive trees are the crème de la crème of permaculture design, and while this often comes in terms of nitrogen-fixing legumes, stone fruit, hard fruit, and nut trees, berry trees certainly have their own spot in the conglomeration.

Mulberries (mauroguanandi)

Mulberry trees are a permaculture favorite. Not only do they provide an abundance of berries, but the leaves are also edible and—for the adventurous producers—can be used to rear silkworms for silk production or fish food. Mulberries are beloved for being quick growers for chop-and-drop mulch, heavy producers for food, pest distractors, and hardy plants for growing in any soil and many climates.

Mulberry trees are a permaculture favorite. Not only do they provide an abundance of berries, but the leaves are also edible and—for the adventurous producers—can be used to rear silkworms for silk production or fish food. Mulberries are beloved for being quick growers for chop-and-drop mulch, heavy producers for food, pest distractors, and hardy plants for growing in any soil and many climates.

Serviceberries (Oregon State University)

Serviceberry goes by several names, including Juneberry, Saskatoon, and mountain blueberry, but whatever it is called, the serviceberry is a rangy and delicious option for a hardy food forest. They work into Zone 4 and will tolerate some shade, though they do like sunlight, as with most berries. The trees can be expected to reach eight meters high and about six meters wide.

Chokeberries (Bruce Baugh)

Chokeberry trees are small, half-shrub-half-tree plants, that reach about six meters high and produce clusters of dark red berries. The berries are very highly esteemed munching for wildlife, and they are sometimes used for jams. These are medicinal, including lots of antioxidants that aid metabolic processes and help with diabetes.

Bushes

Berry bushes are often amazing in that they can be used as tremendously productive hedges, with an abundant output of fruit to coincide with wind protection and wildlife boundaries for the garden and plenty of shelter for beneficial animals.

Elderberries (Micolo J)

Elderberries are well known in Europe, and they are highly respected as a wine fruit. For me, I’ve grown increasingly excited about them because they are a shade-tolerant, understory tree in the temperate climate. They are a prolific plant, growing so commonly in the wild, that sometimes they get overlooked as cultivars.

Goji Berries (Forest Starr and Kim Starr)

Goji berries are increasingly gaining popularity in niche, superfood markets, as they are well regarded for their antioxidant content. They can be grown in containers, though it will stunt their growth, or they can be grown in the ground, where they’ll get to roughly two and a half meters high and wide. They are deciduous, low maintenance plants, suitable from Zone 3 to Zone 10.

Currants (liz west)

Currants, of the Ribes species, come in three varieties: black, red, and white. They are revered for jams and pies, as well as dried versions of themselves, which are much like raisins. They are self-pollinating and like cool, moist soil. They make nice shrubs, and a few can provide enough currants for a household.

Gooseberries (mako)

Gooseberry plants are very similar to currants, though the fruit is notably different. There are European (tastier) and American (more disease-resistant) varieties, and they are fairly moderate in size, averaging about a meter high and wide. They like a full helping of sun and well-drained soil, but they can work into Zone 3.

Really Cold

One of the great advantages of berries, as food-producing plant, is that they span, in some species or others, pretty much the entirety of the temperate climate. In these zones, there are varieties that suit just about every role imaginable, and they tend to be worthy producers of healthy, good-tasting food.

Lingonberries (Johan)

Lingonberry bushes only get to about half a meter high, and they are evergreens. In other words, they make pretty decent ground cover plants that’ll provide a little color in the wintertime. They prefer cold environs, but they’ll grow into Zone 9 and 10, though the heat will sometimes get to them. They produce a tart, delicious berry.

Honeyberries (karen_hine)

Honeyberries are the cold-hardy strain to pay attention to, especially for those dealing with the cold-temperate rather than cool-temperate climate. They can survive icy temperatures of around -50 degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius). These are in the same family as honeysuckle, though this time with an edible fruit. They do need at least two plants to produce sweet, delectable berries.

Cranberries (Andrea Pokrzywinski)

Cranberries, call it the American in me, have to be included in this list. Though the USDA approved versions can be a bit finicky to grow, cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite, and cranberry juice is highly regarded medicinally. Cranberries, though, like wet, acidic soil and fairly long growing seasons of nearly seven months. However, like honeyberries, they dig the cold, to the tune of Zone 2 and nothing warmer than Zone 5. Once established, they are consistent producers. The high cranberry bush is said to survive in Zone 7.

As I’ve quickly learned, once the berry boudoir is opened, a whole host of interesting options fall out, and most of them are notably nutritious and nearly as many are delightfully delicious. We haven’t even gotten into loganberries, snowberries, or yumberries, to name but a few. It’s one of the many advantages of homesteading in the temperate—berry-heavy—climate: There is a lot of perennial fruit to be had, and most of it is just too damned tasty for words. I can’t help myself, I’ve got visions of pies, jams, and sweet sipping wines dancing and twirling through my head. The future looks bright.

Header: Mixed Berries (Chun Yip So)

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9 thoughts on “10 Other Berries to Be Aware Of

  1. Jonathan – Great list – some possible additions.

    Not sure if it is technically a berry, but the hardy kiwi (Actinidia) is berry sized and the most delicious “berry” I’ve tasted.

    The guomi and autumn olive (Elaeagnus) both fix nitrogen and make great tasting berries. I want to try making a juice from the guomi berries next year.

    When most people think of raspberries they think red, but I find the amber raspberries the best tasting and they will tolerate some shade.

    Thanks,

    Bob Brown
    http://www.InvestingWithNature.com

  2. Hi Jonathan, I’ve been regularly reading your articles for a few years now, just have some extra info. from my experience and own knowlege to add:

    CHOKEBERRIES:
    The varieties I have are medium shrubs that will grow to 1.5 meters high and across, I didn’t know there were varieties that could get as high as 8 meters, this can only be a good thing in a food forest, the (Aronia prunifolia) ‘nero’ has around three times the antioxidants that Blueberries have!
    The bushes I have produced around 150-180 berries each in the first year after planting, I cannot say yet if this vigour will remain.

    ELDER:
    I’m not sure that placing the Elder under the ”Bushes” category together with Blueberries etc. was correct, although they are shrubs, we call them shrub / trees in the UK as I even have one in my neighbourhood that is at least 12 meters high. I pass by probably between 100-300 of them on my daily travels and all of them are at least 3 meters high (very few-probably from pruning) and up to 10 meters (most of them). Very good species to have around and have many uses not to mention importance to wildlife.

    HONEYBERRY:
    They are the same family as other Loniceras (Honeysuckles) as you have mentioned, you do not really need another fruiting plant to be able to make fruit, any Lonicera even the ornamental climbers will pollinate the plant as long as they both match their flowering times. All of mine are shrubs that will get to 1.5 / 2 meters but I have read that there are climber varieties as well.

    Cheers man and keep it up :)
    Jeff

  3. Honey Berries are also native to northern Canada. they are a funny looking berry, but taste kind of between a blueberry and a raspberry. The commercial name for it when you are looking for them is Haskaps. You do need two different plants for berry production…

    There is also a bush called a high bush cranberry. It is also native to Canada, (at least here in Ontario….) it is a funky tasting berry but very similar to traditional cranberries.
    Wait until a few good fall frosts, and then you can either treat them like real cranberries and make a tart sauce out of them, or leave them for the birds. They will hang on the bushes well into winter for foraging.

  4. What about the vine Schisandra chinensis, shade tolerant, zone 4-10. Berries used in traditional medicine are sour. Hybrid selection, Eastern Prince is self fertile.

  5. For the first time in my 19 years in the Spokane, Washington area, the normally abundant Serviceberries did not produce. I only spotted a handful of berries… Does anyone have any knowledge of why this might be so?

  6. What about sea buckthorn? A bit challenging to pick but very hardy here in zone 3 and producing a prodigious amount of fruit.

  7. Beware goji berries. They have a tendency to develop an invasive habit after three or so years. I grew some here in the UK, with a lot of anticipation, only to get little to no fruit, and a straggly tangle of weedy growth that sent out far reaching rhizomes all over the place. I am still pulling out the remnants now after two years of trying to eradicate it.

    Many plants have developed in specific climates and soils, and do not migrate well to other parts of the world. Japanese knot weed, Himalayan balsam and rhododendron ponticum to name a few. Looks to me like the goji I had has developed similar bad habits.

    Best Wishes,
    L,
    Sid.

  8. A great list, and I like the additions from others in the comment section. Most of these berries are quite pleasant by modern standards; they’re not the sort of thing you ‘have to develop a taste for’.

    One correction: black currants don’t produce the dried currants we buy in stores; their seeds are much too big for that. Dried currants are actually tiny raisins that come from the ‘Zante’ or ‘Corinth’ grape cultivar.

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