May 14, 2018

Can I Eat Those Red Berries?

In nature, bright colors often mean danger, stay away, do not eat! Even people who don't know much about plants know better than to eat red berries from unidentified plants.

In Central Texas we have a native plant called Agarita that thrives in the worst of conditions and produces berries that resemble the kinds your parents warned you not to eat. Except these berries are, in fact, edible.

Agaritas are one of the toughest plants around. Their foliage and red berries resemble holly, and they tolerate extreme heat, drought, terrible, limestone soil, and temps as low as 15*F. As if that's not enough, they aren't bothered by deer, but the berries are adored by birds. 

Agaritas produce fragrant, small yellow flowers in late winter or early spring, and edible red berries in late spring. The berries are tough to pick because (ouch!) the leaves are prickly, but with the right gloves you can enjoy a few. The flavor is similar to that of a very sour grape.

Some people (with lots of time and tough fingertips, apparently) make jelly from agarita berries, but let me warn you -- from my own experience -- I was done with having my fingers poked before I had picked a cup of these tiny berries, and they're not juicy, so you'll need to pick a lot more than I did if you want to make anything with them.

*Common sense warning: don't go eat the first wild red berries you find and say that The Plant Chick told you to try it. Be 100% sure of identification before eating anything wild. Ever.

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