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Red Berries – Edible or Not Edible?

Do you have red fruit growing on tall bushes or trees in your back yard?   Not sure if they’re edible?

Here’s are some red berries/cherries you might have growing in your backyard.

Nanking cherry bush with beautiful small red tart cherries.

These are nanking cherries and they are  edible and delicious (if you don’t mind a little tartness).  They grow on bushes that can grow 6 feet tall x 6 feet wide.  The blossoms are pink and like other cherry blossoms, will bloom in early spring, before any leaves have come out.   The leaves are deeply veined, pointed and light green. The cherries grow on almost non-existent stems and are about 1/2 inch.  They’re bright red and ready to harvest at the end of July.  The longer they’re left on the bush, the sweeter they get.  They’re excellent for juice and jelly.

Tartarian or bush honeysuckle paired red berries not edible

tartarian honeysuckle








These are a bush honeysuckle and they are NOT edible, which is just as well because they’re not tasty at all!  Bush honeysuckles are dense, upright  shrubs that can grow 3 to 10 feet.  The leaves are a bluish-green and grow in alternate pairs.  The small fruit, which goes from green to orange to red, grows on stems in pairs.

Tiny red sour cherries.  These pin cherries grow in the wild.

These are pin cherries and they are edible.  Pin cherries are not commonly planted in backyards, but they can be found across the prairies in parks, along river banks and in other undisturbed areas where there is plenty of sunlight.  Pin cherries grow on straight, small trees or tall shrubs which are between 15- 30 feet. The bark on young trees is smooth, with a dark reddish-brown, varnished appearance. Pin cherries grow on long stems and are quite small at about 1/4 inch.  They are bright red and make excellent juice and jelly.

Tasty Evans Cherries a big sour cherry for our northern climate.

These are Evans cherries and they are edible and delicious.  This is a popular sour cherry that was cultivated in Edmonton, AB.  They grow on trees that can reach 15 feet.  The leaves are a dark green with serrated edges.  The cherries are 3/4 inches, bright red and tart.  If you’re patient, the cherries will get sweeter and turn a darker red when left on the tree longer.  They are typically ripe in August.  Because of their bigger size they’re excellent for pies, baking, canning, freezing, juice or jelly.

If you’re not sure about what’s growing in your backyard, take a sample of the leaves, the fruit and a picture of the whole shrub/tree to your local nursery.  They should be able to help you identify what kind of plant you have and whether or not you can dig in and enjoy or leave the fruit for the birds.

Happy harvesting!

Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.


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2 Responses to Red Berries – Edible or Not Edible?

  1. Thank you for this. I did take a chance this morning while walking my dog by eating two berries as I passed by. They just looked so irresistible with the sun shining behind them. (There is a fairy poem that ran through my head about whether one was friend or foe.) Certainly not wise, but part of me thought I had seen something somewhere that said they were edible. Well it is 6:00 pm and though I know sometimes it can take up to 18 hours for an effect, I seem to be alive and now somewhat relived with your post and the actual knowledge of what it was that I ate. Therefore I will now be going back to pluck a few more of these delicious beauties. Yes, I did not mind the slight tartness. Again, thank you. (My advise to others… do not try this at home, be SURE of what you are ingesting : )

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