Word of the Week: Berry

berry [ ber-ee ] noun, plural berries: a fleshy, simple fruit without a stone

An August harvest from the Organic Vegetable Garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park.
Photo © Judy Salveson


Can you identify any berries among the edibles to the right? Although nutritionists consider tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, and eggplants vegetables, botanists categorize them as fruits. And, all of these aforementioned fruits are berries. Other edible berries include avocados, bananas, blueberries, cucumbers, grapes, kiwis, lemons, oranges, pawpaws, persimmons, and watermelon.

A berry is a fleshy fruit that develops from a single ovary of a flower. A berry’s outer layer, the pericarp, develops from the ovary wall and protects the seeds inside. Berries with hard rinds are called pepos (e.g., those in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae). Berries with leathery rinds and partitioned interior sections are called hesperidia (e.g. those in the citrus family, Rutaceae).

Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are not berries, but that is a discussion for another time.

Can you identify these EDIBLE berries? Click on the picture to find the answers.

Can you identify these POISONOUS berries?

This developing berry of Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple) is edible only when fully ripe. Even then care should be taken with the amount ingested. All other parts of the plant–including fruit seeds and skin–are poisonous and should not be eaten. If you are unfamiliar with this fruit, then consult an authoritative field guide first. Photo © Elaine Mills

NOTE: Plants in the wild should not be eaten without consulting an expert or authoritative field guides for information on identification and food preparation. It is easy to confuse plants in the wild, so you should be 100% sure they are edible before consuming them. Remember:

  • Just because a plant is not identified as toxic does not mean that it is safe to eat.
  • Sometimes only certain parts of a plant are edible and other parts of the same plant are toxic.
  • Sometimes parts are only edible at a certain time in their life cycle or when they are prepared in a certain way.

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