This guide provides a list of edible wild berries in British Columbia, Canada including the Vancouver area, the Gulf Islands, Haida Gwaii, and the Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, and Glacier National Parks.
Bearberry Kinnikinnick Arctostaphylos Spp. Berries have thick skin and a mealy taste. Berries can be dried for storage. Dried berries can be ground and cooked into a porridge. Dried berries can be popped when fried in grease over low flame. Varieties in British Columbia are Common bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and Alpine bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina). Grows in dry open woods and gravelly or sandy soils in arctic and alpine regions. Warning: may cause nausea or constipation if eaten in quantity, prolonged use may case stomach and liver problems and should be avoided by children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Ribes Spp. Berries contain seeds dense in nutrients. Raw berries tend to be tart. berries contain high levels of pectin, which benefits making jams. Plant is a small shrub growing 1-2 m tall. Leaves and stem have strong fragrance. Varieties in British Columbia are Northern black currant (Ribes hudsonianum), Stink currant (Ribes bracteosum) and Prickly currant (Ribes lacustre). Grows in moist foothill and montane woods. Warning: Northern black currants may cause diarrhea and stomach upset if eaten in quantity.
Vaccinium Spp. berry is sweeter than the Red huckleberry. berry is high in vitamin C. plant is a deciduous or evergreen shrub. varieties in British Columbia are Thinleaf huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) and Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum). grows in forests in montane and subalpine areas.
Rubus Spp. mature berry is very sweet. berry can be dried for storage. bush has formidable thorns. varieties in British Columbia are Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), Trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus) and Highbush blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis). tip: the blackberry is an example of a compound berry, since it consists of a tight cluster of smaller parts, resembling a raspberry. Compound berries are generally edible.
Bilberry Vaccinium Spp. berry has a sweet taste when mature. berry can be dried for storage. berries can be boiled in water and spread to dry as a cake. juice from boiled berries can be cooled to make a jelly. varieties in British Columbia are Velvetleaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides), Dwarf blueberry (Vaccinium caespitosum), Bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), Oval-leaf blueberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium) and Alaska blueberry (Vaccinium alaskaense). grows in both wooded and open moist areas.
Prunus Virginiana raw berry has bitter/sour taste. berry can be cooked to improve taste. berry can be crushed or dried whole for storage, with or without pit. edible look-alikes are the Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) and Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata). grows in open areas in plains, foothills, and montane regions. warning: do not eat raw or undried seeds; they contain amygdalin which breaks down into cyanide.
Rubus Chamaemorus berries are somewhat sour/bitter. unripe berries are hard and reddish. ripe berries are salmon-colored. berry has high vitamin C content. berry has high benzoic acid content, which acts as a natural preservative. stems are unbranched, slender and wiry. leaves are broader than long, and have five lobes. plant grows in peat bogs and peaty forests.
Vaccinium Spp. raw berry has a tart, sour flavour. berry can be dried for storage and reconstituted in boiling water. berry can be boiled and mixed with grease/oil for storage. berry has improved flavour when cooked or after freezing. berries remain on the shrub all year. varieties in British Columbia are Bog cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and Grouse whortleberry (Vaccinium scoparium).
Sambucus Spp. berries are tiny and powder-blue, growing in clusters. berries are edible if cooked or dried. plant is a large, tree-like shrub. the variety in British Columbia is Blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea). warning: berries may cause nausea if eaten in quantity. Red varieties of the berry are poisonous.
Prosartes Spp. berries are bright red and large (~0.5 inches in diameter). berries occur at tips of branches in clusters. taste is blandish/sweet. varieties in British Columbia are Hooker's fairy bell (Prosartes hookeri) and Rough-fruited fairy bell (Prosartes trachycarpa). plant grows in moist forested areas.
Maianthemum Spp. berry is edible. berry transitions from green to mottled/dark red. berry was traditionally stored in cooled grease. berry is high in vitamin C. young shoots and green parts of young plants are edible, and best when cooked. rhizome is edible when cooked. varieties in British Columbia are False solomon's-seal (Maianthemum racemosum) and Star-flowered false solomon's-seal (Maianthemum stellatum). grows in thickets, forests, and moist open areas.
Ribes Spp. berries have modest taste, tart if picked too early. berries can be collected and left to ripen. berries can be dried for storage. berries can be cooked and then spread to dry into cakes. berries contains high levels of pectin, which benefits making jams. varieties in British Columbia are Coastal black gooseberry (Ribes divaricatum), Sticky gooseberry (Ribes lobbii), White-stemmed gooseberry (Ribes inerme) and Northern gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides). warning: eating gooseberries in quantity may cause stomach upset.
Arctostaphylos Columbiana berries have thick skin and are mealy. berries can be dried for storage. berry is suitable for occassional use. plant is a tall shrub, 1-3 meters tall. grows in open coniferous forests and other open areas. warning: may cause constipation if eaten in quantity, prolonged used may case stomach and liver problems.
Crataegus Spp. berries are called 'haws'. haws are tastless, with a texture that is mealy/seedy. haws can be dried for storage. haws can be mashed into a pulp, cooked and then spread to dry into cakes once the seeds have been strained out. haws contains high levels of pectin, which benefits making jams. plant is a shrub or small tree, 6-11 meters tall with long sturdy thorns. grows in open woodland, forest edges and road-sides in lowland and montane regions. the variety in British Columbia is Black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii). warning: thorn scratches to the eyes usually results in blindness. Blood pressure and heartrate may be affected by consuming berries.
Morus Spp. berry is juicy and sweet when ripe. berry turns ripe in midsummer. plant is a deciduous bush or small tree. the variety in British Columbia is White mulberry (Morus alba). tip: the mulberry is an example of a compound berry, since it consists of a tight cluster of smaller parts, resembling a raspberry. Compound berries are generally edible. warning: unripe mulberries cause stomache upset and are considered poisonous.
Mahonia Spp. berries taste sour. berries are about 1cm long. berries are suitable for casual foraging and flavouring food or drink. varieties in British Columbia are Tall oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Creeping oregon-grape (Mahonia repens) and Dwarf oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa). plant grows dry and/or open forests in low to montane areas. warning: berries may be toxic and even deadly if eaten in large quantities.
Opuntia Spp. flesh of the plant is edible raw, after removing spines and inner seeds. taste of plant is bland or sweet to sour. flesh can be dried for storage. berries are edible. seeds can be dried for storage. dried seeds can be ground into a flour. varieties in British Columbia are Brittle prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis) and Plains prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha). grows in dry open areas in prairies and foothills.
Rubus Spp. berry is sweet. berry is best eaten fresh, since it does not preserve well. plant may have prickles or bristles. varieties in British Columbia are Blackcap (Rubus leucodermis), Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), Arctic raspberry (Rubus arcticus), Trailing raspberry (Rubus pubescens) and Creeping raspberry (Rubus pedatus). tip: the raspberry is an example of a compound berry, since it consists of a tight cluster of smaller parts. Compound berries are generally edible.
Ribes Spp. berries are bright translucent red. berries are sour but palatable. berry is more sour than black currant berry. plant is waist high. varieties in British Columbia are Northern red currant (Ribes triste) and Mountain prickly currant (Ribes montigenum). shrub grows in swamps, moist coniferous forests and rocky montane slopes.
Vaccinium Parvifolium raw berry has a sweet/tart taste. berry is high in vitamin C. berry can mashed and spread out for drying, either in the sun or using smoke. After storage, berries can be reconstituted in boiling water. berry can be stored in grease or oil. berry was traditionally used as fish bait. plant is a deciduous shrub. grows in forests in lowland and montane areas, frequently on nurse logs and rotting stumps.
Rubus Spectabilis mature berry is yellow-red. berry is mildly sweet to neutral. young plant/shoot is edible raw. grows in moist coastal forests. tip: the salmonberry is an example of a compound berry, since it consists of a tight cluster of smaller parts, resembling a raspberry. Compound berries are generally edible.
Service Berry , Juneberry Amelanchier Spp. purple berry is mildly sweet to neutral. cooked/steamed berries can be mashed, formed into cakes and dried over a low intensity fire. dried berries can be mixed with meat and fat to make pemmican. dried berries can be added to soups. plant is a shrub or small tree. the variety in British Columbia is Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia). grows in forested areas in plains, foothills, and montane regions. warning: pits contain cyanide-like toxins, which are destroyed by cooking or drying.
Fragaria Spp. berry is sweet. berry can be mashed an spread out into cakes and sundried. flowers, leaves and stems can be used for flavouring. varieties in British Columbia are Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Wood strawberry (Fragaria vesca) and Coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis). warning: wilted or partly wilted leaves contain toxins.
Rubus Parviflorus mature berry is thin, coarse, seedy and has neutral taste. plant has no thorns. plant has large, maple-like leaves. young shoots can be peeled and eaten raw. grows in foothill and montane regions. tip: the thimbleberry is an example of a compound berry, since it consists of a tight cluster of smaller parts, resembling a raspberry. Compound berries are generally edible. warning: avoid eating wilted leaves, which can contain toxins.
Streptopus Spp. berry has bland, cucumber-like taste. stem has distinct sharp kinks that make it look crooked. varieties in British Columbia are Claspleaf twisted-stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius) and Rosy twisted-stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus). grows in dense, moist undergrowth. warning: berries eaten in quantity can have a laxative effect.