As gardeners, we can sometimes be so enthralled by the spectacle of autumn leaves in all their fierce, fiery beauty that we don’t fully appreciate the other seasonal charms of this time of year. Not least of these are deciduous trees and shrubs with decorative fruit or berries, many of which remain on their branches long after the very last of those gilded autumn leaves has fallen. These are the plants that shine throughout the small, grey days of early winter, their glimmering, pared-back beauty underscored by the seasonal decay that surrounds them. Many are also excellent sources of food for wild birds at a time when it’s badly needed, while the fruit of some can be used to make health-enhancing tonics, jams or homemade wines. Last but not least, their cut branches look great brought indoors and arranged in a large vase or urn, reminding us that seasonal beauty comes in many different forms. Here’s a shortlist of some of the best.
Vilmorin’s rowan. Photograph: Richard Johnston
1. Sorbus vilmorinii (Vilmorin Rowan). While there are many different kinds of rowan tree with spectacular displays of autumn berries, this species stands out for the painterly shades of its dangling clusters of ornamental fruits, which slowly fade from crimson-red to rose-pink and then almost white as the season progresses. Its berries also last well into winter unlike those of some other rowans. A great choice for a small garden, this deciduous tree is also valued for its pollinator-friendly spring blossom, scarlet autumn foliage and compact growth habit. Reaching an average height and spread of 4-5 metres over 20 years, it makes an outstanding specimen tree for a small garden.
The decorative berries of the native hawthorn. Photograph: Richard Johnston
2. Sometimes we ignore the obvious. So if I told you that our native hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) was one of the hardiest, most versatile, supremely decorative, easy-to-cultivate, wildlife-friendly shrubs/small trees that you could grow, would you believe me? No? Just consider its pretty, pollinator-friendly spring blossom, its ability to flourish in the most hostile of conditions and those wonderful, scarlet berries that cover its spiny branches at this time of year. Plus those same berries are not just beautiful but as our forebears knew, they’re also edible and health-enhancing. Use them to make a vitamin-rich, flu-fighting winter tonic. Alternatively, eat them in early winter, plucked straight from the tree and at that point of perfect ripeness that the British nature writer Richard Mabey describes them as tasting “like miniature avocados”. But if that doesn’t rock your boat, then seek out its close relative, the very decorative plum-leafed hawthorn, Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’.
3. There’s something about the zingy-coloured, winged fruits of Euonymus europaeus (our native spindle tree) that makes you want to stroke them while simultaneously marvelling at how their fizzy shades of bubblegum-pink and Fanta-orange should clash violently yet somehow don’t. One of the best forms is Euonymus ‘Red Cascade’, which is much more generously fruiting than the species. Forming a small tree or medium sized shrub (3m by 2.5m), it’s happy in full sun/light shade and in well-drained soil and is also prized for its vibrant autumn foliage and pollinator-friendly spring flowers. Once fully ripe, birds also love to eat the bright orange seeds. Grow it in a mixed border, as part of an informal hedge or in the wilder margins of the garden.
4. Malus ‘Butterball’. There are many different varieties of ornamental crabapple that deserve a place in the autumn/winter garden for their long-lasting, colourful displays of showy fruit. This particular one is prized for its especially abundant display of miniature rose-gold apples that ripen in autumn and persist on the branches well into winter. As what’s known as a universal pollinator, it’s also a great addition to a mini apple orchard (a universal pollinator makes for better harvests) while those ornamental fruits can be used to make a delicious crabapple jelly. The fact that its long lasting, pretty, pale-pink spring blossom is adored by pollinating insects is yet another reason why this compact, deciduous tree (4m by 4m) is great choice for the smaller garden as long as you give it full sun or light shade and a fertile, free draining soil.
5. As long as you don’t deadhead them, many species of rose have exceptionally decorative, bird-friendly, edible hips that glow in the late autumn garden and can also be used to make a nourishing syrup or jam (see This Week in the Garden). Examples include Rosa spinosissima, Rosa moyesii, Rosa rugosa, Rosa canina, Rosa macophylla, Rosa macrantha and the hybrid musk rose, Rosa ‘Penelope’.
The scarlet berries of Viburum betulifoilium persist on the branches for many months Photograph: Richard Johnston
6. Known as the tea viburnum, Viburnum setigerum’s extravagant display of bright scarlet berries in autumn and early winter can often be so heavy that they weigh down its slender, arching branches. Forming a medium-sized, spreading shrub (2.5-4m by 1.5-2m), this hardy plant is also prized for its golden/crimson autumn foliage and its small but pollinator-friendly spring flowers. For the best display of fruits, it’s a good idea to plant it as a small group to aid cross-pollination. Happy in full sun or light shade and an acid/neutral, moist but free-draining soil, the tea viburnum gets its common name from the fact that Buddhist monks of Mount Omei in China traditionally used its leaves to make a sweet medicinal tea. Its close relative Viburnum betulifolium forms a larger, more upright plant (3m by 3m) and produces a similarly eye-catching , long-lasting display of brilliant scarlet berries that endures for many months after the leaves have fallen.
- Crab apples
- Sea buckthorn
- Wild cherry
- Wayfaring Tree
- Guelder rose
- Toxic berries
- Lords & Ladies
- Black Bryony
- As a reminder on berries you can and can’t eat:
- 35 Purple Fruits and Vegetables You Should Be Eating
- Purple Fruits and Vegetables
- 2. Blueberries
- 3. Eggplants
- 4. Figs
- 5. Purple Potato
- 6. Red Cabbage
- 7. Purple Cauliflower
- 8. Purple Asparagus
- 9. Blackberries
- 10. Purple Carrots
- 11. Acai Berries
- 12. Purple Corn
- 13. Ube
- 14. Lavender
- 15. Red Grapes
- 16. Passion Fruit
- 17. Plums
- Purple Foods: More Purple Fruits and Vegetables
- Why Are Purple Foods So Healthy?
- What’s the Best Way To Cook Purple Fruits & Vegetables?
- The Ultimate List of Purple Fruits & Vegetables: How Many Have You Tried?
- How to identify spring hedgerow species
- Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa
- Early dog violet, Viola reichenbachiana
- Elder, Sambucus nigra
- Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage
- Sweet violet, Viola odorata
- Wych elm, Ulmus glabra
- Wood sorrel, Oxalis acetosella
- Marsh marigold, Caltha palustris
- Primrose, Primula vulgaris
- Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum
- Germander speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys
- Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Plant Identification
- Cooperative Extension Publications
This Week in the Garden
The decorative deciduous, self-clinging climbers known as Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquifolia) are in full autumn colour now, their crimson leaves creating a spectacular seasonal display that few other plants can rival. The classic spot to grow them is against a high, sunny house wall but it’s important to bear in mind that both species are hugely vigorous, fast-growing plants that can eventually reach a great height and spread and need regular pruning to keep them from obscuring windows, blocking gutters and dislodging roof tiles. So if you don’t fancy the idea of balancing on a tall ladder while wielding a secateurs/shears, you’ll need to persuade or pay someone else to do it for you. The best time to prune both Boston ivy and Virginia creeper is after the leaves have fallen and before the end of the year.
Rosehips can be used to make a health-enhancng tasty syrup at this time of year. Photograph: Richard Johnston
Harvest ripe rose hips and use them to make a tasty, health-enhancing syrup that’s naturally rich in vitamins A, E and C and can be used to help stave off winter coughs and colds. For a copy of the recipe originally issued by the UK Ministry of Food during the second World War for exactly this purpose, see recipespastandpresent.org.uk. Its health boosting qualities aside, rosehip syrup has a very pleasant, fruity “hedgerow” flavour and can be used to make a cordial, added to an autumn cocktail, drizzled over pancakes or ice-cream. The hips can also used to make a flavoursome, nutritious jam or marmalade.
Read this: Beautifully written and acutely observed, Scent Magic: Notes from a Gardener by the English garden designer and plantsperson Isabel Bannerman is destined to become a gardening classic. Published by Pimpernel Press (£30), this calendar of smells will make you want to grow Pelargonium tomentosum just to experience the sweet whiff of “caramelised mint humbugs” that comes from its felty leaves, to seek out a Camellia sasanqua in full bloom to suck in its perfume “fine as a petal, light as orange flower water” and to drink in the smell of autumn when the air is “rich with the nutty, fruitful, verdant herbage of acorns crushed in tarmac and a million leaves descending”. Its sensuous charms aside, the author is also fascinating on the science of smell, from how it subconsciously informs us about our surroundings and the people around us to how air pollution is destroying plant fragrance by as much as 90 per cent with dramatic consequences for insects and birdlife. A must-read.
Dates For Your Diary
Saturday, October 26th-Monday, October 28th, 11am-4pm, Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co Wicklow, Halloween seasonal celebrations including pumpkin carving, scarecrow-making and more, see killruddery.com for details/to pre-book; Continuing until October 31st at the National Botanic Gardens, Glanevin, Dublin 9, Magical Plants, a drop-by event for children that takes a seasonal look at some of “the world’s weird, wonderful and magical plants from the famous wolfsbane of Harry Potter to the opium poppies of the ancient Egyptians”. See botanicgardens.ie
We’re at the end of August now, a fantastic time to forage for the many edible fruits and berries that nature provides us. What’s the difference between fruits and berries I hear you say? Botanically speaking, fruits are the seed bearing structure of flowering plants; berries are a type of fruit, ones where the fruit is produced from a single ovary. For most of us the definition of whether something is a berry or a fruit is much less important than how it tastes, and even less important than whether it’s edible or not!
I’ve written this post to explain which fruits and berries are edible and which aren’t; it isn’t intended to be an identification guide, although I’ve included tips on where it grows and photos. Use good tree and plant identification books to help you out.
A note on berries: I know that many people say that you should never eat red berries but that is a myth, a myth that is both misleading and potentially dangerous. On the one hand there are many red berries that are edible (see below) and by following this mantra you would miss out on them. But the flip side is that people often assume that you can eat berries that aren’t red; this is entirely false and could prove fatal. So rather than rely on twee sayings, I’d suggest putting in the time to learn which are edible and which aren’t!
Crab apples (Malus sylvestris) grow throughout the British Isles, usually singly, and has a preference for heavy, well drained soils. The apples are very tart and generally not considered suitable for eating raw. We tend to use them in jams and jellies, such as in this apple and blackberry jam. Or you could use them in a wild marjoram jelly.
These are the red berries found on wild roses. They can be found across the British Isles and are often found in hedgerows. Here in Kent the species we come across most frequently is probably dog rose (Rosa canina). Rosehips contain high quantities of Vitamin C, indeed during the 2nd World War people were encouraged to scour the hedgerows and collect them up. They need to be processed ideally, such as in this recipe for rosehip and crab apple jelly, but certainly make sure that you remove the seed before eating as the microscopic hairs on the seed will cause irritation if swallowed.
Also note in the photo below the berries of black bryony (Dioscorea communis sometimes referred to as Tamus communis); these are the ones on the right hand side of the photo that are more spherical and glossy.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is a small tree found throughout the British Isles although it is most common in the north and west. Often it’s known as mountain ash due to its liking of high places and the similarity of the leaf to ash, but they aren’t related. The berries grow in bunches and vary between orange and red. They are delicious when made into a jam .
Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) is a close relative of rowan with a paler berry, sometimes slightly orangey. They are rare in the wild but we are fortunate to have lots of them in and around our ancient woodland camp. The berries are edible but need to be cooked before eating. The tree is relatively easy to identify from its leaf, which is pale green on top and silvery white on the underside (from which the tree derives its name).
Elder (Sambucus nigra) is another common small tree found all around the British Isles. Whilst it prefers chalky soil, it will grow pretty much anywhere, in fact Nicola and I had one grow through a crack in the pavement at the front of our house. The berries are about the size of a petit pois and very dark purple. Be cautious as they can have a laxative affect. They work well as a syrup or mixed with blackberries to make a cordial.
Haws are the red berries that grow on hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), which is regarded as either a shrub or small tree; with that said, I’ve seen several hawthorn that approached 10m in height. They’re probably best consumed as a fruit leather or as a sauce. We’ve also used them to make a hawthorn tincture, an alcohol based herbal remedy, which has been shown to strengthen the heart muscles.
A shrub or small tree found on the coast, the berries of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) can be eaten raw but I find them to be too astringent (think cheeks sucked in!). Another that is probably best turned into a jam or jelly for consumption.
We’ve got lots of wild cherry (Prunus avium) in and around our ancient woodland camp. The fruits are somewhat smaller than their cultivated cousins but the main issue is getting to them before the birds. Wild cherry tends to fruit earlier than other trees, often in June. The photo below is of unripened berries.
The Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana) is a small tree common in hedgerows in the south east of England, becoming less common as you move north or west. I’ve come across a couple of accounts of people eating the berries in famine situations but the perceived wisdom seems to be that they are mildly toxic and cause vomiting and diarrhoea. I’ve never tried them so have no first hand experience on the matter!
Sloes grow on blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), a common hedgerow tree. They can be found across the British Isles although in my experience more so in the west, where they tend to be used to keep livestock in. The berries are somewhat sharp and are best used in either a jam or for sloe gin or vodka. After the last batch of sloe vodka we made, Nicola squeezed the pips out of the fruit and coated them in chocolate, a fantastic liqueur.
Plums (Prunus domestica ssp. domestica) aren’t native but are found all around the British isles, generally near past or present human settlement. We’ve recently made this delicious plum ketchup.
The origins of damsons (Prunus domestica ssp. insititia) is uncertain, It isn’t a native but certainly has been cultivated in the British Isles for a very long time. Some argue that it is a cross between a sloe and plum, others that it is a variety of sloe alone. Whatever might be correct, they are worth keeping an eye out for. Some are often sharp and need to be cooked, some are sweeter and can be eaten raw.
Yew (Taxus baccata) is one of 3 conifers native to the British Isles and is most common in the south; it’s also common in churchyards throughout the British Isles. Whilst we refer to the yew having a berry, it isn’t a true fruit but in fact a modified cone called an aril. All parts of yew are toxic with the exception of the berry – but not the seed inside, which is toxic. The aril is glutinous and quite sweet.
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) is common throughout the British Isles preferring heavy soil; it’s scarce where we are but there are the odd one or two about. The berries contain Vitamin C but they must be cooked before you eat them. Even then there are some reports of people suffering from diarrhoea and/or vomiting after consuming.
Not much to say about blackberries really, other than that they are delicious!
It would be remiss to not include toxic berries, here’s some of them.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) is a vine like plant and consists of around 100 species that are found in the northern hemisphere.
The berries aren’t always red and can vary in colour including white, yellow, blue and black.
The berries on some species are toxic and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, sweats, dilated pupils and increased heartbeat. If ingested in large quantities, the berries can cause respiratory failure, convulsions and coma. According to the Toxicological Centres in Berlin and Zurich, you need to eat around 30 berries for the minor symptoms to appear.
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) is a UK native tree, although the name Dogwood is given to around 60 species in the family. They can be found in most temperate zones of the northern hemisphere.
I’ve read mixed reports on the toxicity of Cornus sanguinea, with claims that they are toxic and can cause vomiting to claims that they’ve been eaten with no ill effect, although they are very bitter (this later claim is confirmed in The Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants by Frohne and Pfander, which also notes that there are no reports of poisoning from eating the berries).
I’ve never tried them and due to this uncertainty put them in the ‘leave alone’ category.
Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) is a member of the St John’s Wort family. All parts of the plant are toxic due to the presence of hypericin which can cause nausea and diarrhoea; the berries are especially toxic.
Lords & Ladies
Lords & Ladies (Arum maculatum) contain calcium oxalate crystals which can irritate the skin and cause inflamation and blistering. I’ve bitten into a leaf to see what would happen; immeadiately my tongue and lips started to tingle so I spat it out again. But the tingling lasted for several hours before fading away with no other effects. I’m led to believe the same thing happens with the berries. Eating large quantities of this plant can cause severe gastro-enteritis ending in coma and death.
Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) creeps and crawls its way through the hedgerows.
The berries contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid. Symptoms of solanine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and burning of the throat; these symptoms can take up to 19 hours to manifest. In more severe cases, hallucinations, paralysis, fever, jaundice and death have been reported. You can die from eating moderate quantities of solanine (6mg/kg body weight).
It’s worth noting that the amount of solinine is highest when the berries are green and decreases as the berries ripen until they only contain traces of solinine. Fatal cases are extremely rare.
Holly (Illex aquifolium) is a deciduous tree that retains its leaves in the winter. Most of us are familiar with its spiny leaves and red berries. It’s a member of a large genus of around 480 species that have a wide distribution. Eating of the berries has been most frequently reported in children. I’ve seen a few claims that eating more than 20 berries is fatal in children but have been unable to find the source of this claim and in fact information on the toxicity of holly berries is scarce. It is thought that the berries contains a digitalis like chemical as well as triterpene compounds. Symptoms are abdominal pains, vomitting and diarrhea; there are no recorded cases of death in modern literature.
Black bryony (Dioscorea communis sometimes referred to as Tamus communis) conatin calcium oxylate (similar to Lords & Ladies discussed below) and touching the leaves and stems can cause irritation of the skin. Eating the berries can induce severe irritation of the stomach and intestines, seizures and kidney failure. See the section above on rosehips for a photo.
Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) will grow all over the British Isles but has a preference for chalky soils and seems to like the edges of woods and hedgerows. It‘s leaves are similar to Dogwood but the fruits are unmistakable.
Due to the colour and shape of the berries they are especially attractive to children and many cases of eating them have been recorded. Fortunately in recent times only cases involving mild poisoning have been recorded. Symptoms include severe diarrhea and fever; these symptoms can take 8 – 15 hours to manifest themselves.
As a reminder on berries you can and can’t eat:
I haven’t included photos of all of these trees and plants so you’ll need to do a little more identification still, but as a summary this should be useful.
Edible red berries
Toxic red berries
Edible black berries
Toxic black berries
|Rosehips||Wayfaring Tree||Billberry||Dogwood (inedible)|
|Sea buckthorn||Honeysuckle (some species)|
|Guelder rose (when cooked)||Lords & Ladies|
|Yew (but not the seed inside)|
We look at many of these fruits and berries on our 1 day foraging course.
You can see loads of photos from the day, as well as from all of our courses, on our Facebook page.
Also known as cramp bark, American cranberrybush, and European highbush, guelder rose is a perennial that can grow up to 13 feet (4 m) high. Its bark is a gray-brown color, and the leaves can be oval or round and up to 4 inches (10 cm) in width. The guelder rose flowers are white and occur in wide clusters, with only the middle flowers being fertile. In high summer, the bunches of bright red berries are ripe to eat.
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) is a member of the Adoxaceae or muskroot family, which is composed mostly by herbs and shrubs, and comprises about 200 species across five genera.
Related Species, Varieties and Cultivars of Guelder Rose
Guelder rose (V. opulus) is one of the 150 species in the Viburnum genus, 25 are native to North America and around seven have been introduced as ornamental plants, each one with a particular geographical range and growing requirements. Some of them are:
Black haw (V. prunifolium), which is often used interchangeably with V. opulus.
Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), native to eastern North America and more shade tolerant than many of the other species in the genus.
Bitchiu Viburnum (V. bitchiuense), which also has pink buds and white, fragrant flowers.
Bodnant Viburnum (V. x bodnantense), which is grown primarily for winter bloom and blooms small, loose clusters of fragrant pink flowers.
Fragrant Snowball (V. x carlecephalum), whose white flowers are fragrant, long-lasting, and bloom from March to April.
There are three main subspecies of guelder rose: American cranberrybush (V. opulus var. americanum), guelder flower (V. opulus var. opulus), and Takeda (V. opulus var. sargentii).
Because of its beautiful appearance and easy maintenance, many cultivars of Viburnum have been created, mainly for ornamental purposes, such as ‘Cayuga’, which grows black berries in late summer and it is highly tolerant to bacterial leaf spot and powdery mildew; ‘Emerald Luster’, which has exceptionally nice, lustrous foliage; ‘Autumn Jazz’, with red, yellow, orange, and burgundy fall colors; and ‘Erie’, insect and disease resistant, with unusually colored coral-red fruit that last until spring.
Guedler rose has been cultivated since the late 17th century and has been mentioned by Chaucer. It has also been used by Native American tribes for centuries as a treatment for body pain and menstrual cramps.
Guelder rose is an invasive plant that is widely regarded as a weed rather than revered for all its medicinal benefits, although there is a small cultivation industry. It is considered a nuisance, and for this reason, it has an unfavorable status in the USDA Plant Database; it is reported as highly invasive and undesirable in a variety of official publications. Therefore, the economic importance of guelder rose is low, and there is no guelder rose market to speak of. It does, however, have importance in the herbal medicine industry, with cultivation being mainly for this purpose, or occasionally for ornamental uses.
“Guelder rose is important to the herbal medicine industry.”
Gardening. The guelder rose tree or shrub is attractive enough to sometimes be raised in gardens and parks for its aesthetic value.
Timber. The bark is sometimes used for firewood or making wooden products.
35 Purple Fruits and Vegetables You Should Be Eating
Purple foods, particularly purple fruits and vegetables, are sought after by health-conscious consumers and those in the know, as the vibrant colour indicates a naturally high presence of health-enhancing antioxidants.
From purple potatoes and carrots, to trusty red cabbage and blueberries, this list of purple fruits and vegetables boasts plenty of nutritional credentials behind the vibrant hues, they are not only a great way of adding colour to a dish, they should help you feel good about eating them too.
Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Image: Coconut and Berries
Roasted, juiced, spiralised, souped or blended into vegan smoothies, beetroot is a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s even low in fat.
Beetroot is also great for haute cuisine. Check out this stunning seafood recipe from chef Antimo Merone, at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana restaurant, for a lobster salad with beetroot puree.
Blueberries have long been recognised as a superfood of the fruit world, catapulting them into the spotlight for those health conscious consumers. High in antioxidants this purple fruit is delicous eaten in its natural state, or baked into desserts.
Find our recipes for mouth-watering blueberry desserts here.
Eggplants are a versatile purple vegetable that can be eaten any number of ways – full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, they are also said to have the potential to lower cholesterol and help manage weight. Plenty of reasons to put eggplant on the plate.
Try our 5 easy eggplant dishes – perfect for a weekday dinner.
Figs are rich in natural health benefiting phyto-nutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins. Dried figs are a great concentrated source of minerals and vitamins.
Find out more in the A-Z of figs – they were one of Cleopatra’s favourite fruits.
5. Purple Potato
Purple potatoes are reported to contain four times as many antioxidants as Russet potatoes thanks to anthocyanin, the pigment that creates the purple colour in the potatoes’ skin and flesh.
Turn those purple potatoes into tasty chips with this recipe for beet and potato chips with rock salt and rosemary.
6. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is another awesome purple vegetable packed with antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibre.
Discover 6 ways of cooking with red cabbage today.
7. Purple Cauliflower
Tired of white cauliflower? Try purple cauliflower rich in vitamin C, with a half cup of florets reportedly providing nearly half of the daily requirement for vitamin C.
Purple cauliflower also packs a nutritional punch when it comes to fibre, vitamin A, folate, calcium and potassium and selenium. All good news when it comes to staying healthy.
8. Purple Asparagus
This asparagus is so sweet it can be eaten raw, meaning you get to enjoy all those health enhancing antioxidants to their full potential.
The rich colour of blackberries is a giveaway that they have some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. Rich in bioflavonoids and Vitamin C, they are low on sodium and calories. Enjoy them naturally to benefit from their nutritional goodness.
10. Purple Carrots
Believe it or not, a few hundred years ago, all cultivated carrots were purple; the orange carrot wasn’t cultivated until the late 16th century. It’s unsurprising to see purple carrots sprouting up again given their stunning colour coupled with their anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.
11. Acai Berries
The açaí berry, a naturally blueish-purple fruit, is packed with antioxidants as well as being rich in fibre, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins A, B, C and E, mineral salts (calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium).. and the list keeps going.
Find out more fascinating facts about acai, from A-Z here.
12. Purple Corn
Eye-catching purple corn contains a variety of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) including massive amounts of phenolics and anthocyanins, suggesting they are high in anti-oxidants … essentially helping us to stay healthy.
Try this recipe for purple corn tortillas.
This purple yam is a staple of Filippino cuisine where it is used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Ube is rich in fiber and contains virtually no fat – it’s a great purple vegetable to add to your daily rotation.
This honorary member of the purple fruit or vegetable family, lavender is used in a variety of recipes and is prized for its health benefits. This fragrant herb aids in relaxation and stress relief.
Try these 5 ways of cooking with lavender.
15. Red Grapes
image via Sarah Ackerman/Flickr
Did you know grapes are botanically classified as berries? Red grapes, sometimes called purple grapes, are rich in heart-healthy resveratrol, a compound known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Try this delicous potato salad with goat cheese, red onions and grapes.
16. Passion Fruit
This purple-skinned fruit reveals a bright yellow interior with sweet and sour seeds packed with flavor and antioxidants.
Passion fruit is rich in phytonutrients, as well as vitamins A and C. Eat it fresh to enjoy the maximum benefits. Check out: Passion Fruit From A to Z: 26 Things to Know
When it comes to purple foods plums should always be on your list. This humble fruit comes in different varieties but the most popular one in the United States is the purple plum (also called black plum) with yellow flesh.
Plums are rich in fiber and help ease digestion, as well as being a wonderful source of vitamin A.
Find fresh plum recipes here.
Purple Foods: More Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Other purple fruits and vegetables to keep on your radar include:
- Purple Peppers
- Black Currants
- Red Onions
- Purple Artichokes
- Purple Kale
- Purple Belgian Endive
- Purple Broccoli
- Purple Basil
- Edible violets
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Purple Thyme
- Purple Kohlrabi Micro Greens
Eating purple fruits and vegetables is an easy and fun way to make sure you’re consuming a diverse array of nutrients and vitamins.
While some fruits and vegetables are purely purple of their own accord – such as blackberries and eggplant – some have been purposefully bred to be purple by nature, traditional agriculture, or selective breeding.
Why Are Purple Foods So Healthy?
Purple fruits and vegetables contain compounds calledanthocyanins, which give foods that royal hue – anywhere from deep red-orange to striking violet to beautiful blue. Breeding plants with anthocyanins creates purple cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Plants that contain anthocyanins are better protected against damage from sunlight, and the color also attracts bees and other pollinators.
A 2004 study conducted by the University of Illinois suggests that anthocyanins may help protect cells, heal the body, decrease inflammation, and lower the risk of heart disease and may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. Purple cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and red cabbage also containindoles, nutrients derived from sulfur compounds that may slow the metabolism of carcinogens according to WebMD. WebMD also notes that berries are good sources ofellagic acid, a phytochemical that may also help protect cell integrity.
In addition to the anthocyanins, indoles, and ellagic acid, these purple fruits and vegetables also contain all the expected nutritional components of fresh produce – such as vitamin A, B2, C, dietary fiber, potassium, and other phenols.
What’s the Best Way To Cook Purple Fruits & Vegetables?
Because anthocyanins are water-soluble (able to dissolve in water), you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck when you eat these fruits and veggies raw, steamed, or roasted. Most purple vegetables are easy to prepare – just use them as you would their paler cousins. Toss berries into breakfast dishes, lunchtime salads, and desserts. Drizzle chopped veggies with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat – and then roast in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes for an easy roasted side dish.
The Ultimate List of Purple Fruits & Vegetables: How Many Have You Tried?
- Red Onions
- Red Grapes
- Red Cabbage
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Red Belgian Endive aka Radicchio
- Swiss Chard
- Black Currants
- Açai Berries (you can only find these frozen in the U.S.)
- Purple Potatoes
- Purple Cauliflower
- Purple Corn
- Red Kale
- Purple Carrots
- Purple Bell Peppers
- Purple Broccoli
- Purple Artichokes
- Purple Asparagus
- Purple Kohlrabi
- Purple Sweet Potatoes
- Black Currants
- Purple Snow Peas
- Chinese Long Beans
- Purple Okra
- Purple Green Onions
- Ube aka Purple Yam
- Purple Thyme
- Purple Basil
- Edible Lavender
- Edible Purple Violets
Make it your mission to try every purple food on this list – or at least keep an eye out for new purple produce that you can use to perk up your plate. What’s your favorite?
Related on Organic Authority
Purple Power! 4 Vegetarian Eggplant Recipes for a Tasty Meatless Monday
7 Spring Vegetables: From Peas to Purple Asparagus
Sweet & Sour Superfoods: The 13 Best Berries in the World
Image of beets via
How to identify spring hedgerow species
All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole
- How to identify spring wildflowers
- How to identify spring bees (pictured)
- How to identify birds on the move in spring
Height usually under 8m. Fresh leaves (edible) open in March, earliest in south or sheltered areas. Frothy blossom in late April and May.
Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa
Height usually under 4m. Masses of white flowers on thorny twigs. One of the first hedgerow and woodland-edge trees to blossom.
Early dog violet, Viola reichenbachiana
Height up to 15cm. Lilac flowers. Woods and hedgerows. Spur behind each flower is dark (pale in similar common dog violet).
Elder, Sambucus nigra
Height up to 10m. Leaflets unfurl in March or even February. Tree with a weed-like ability to thrive on waste ground and verges.
- How to make tasty elder shortbread
- How to make elderflower gin
Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage
Height up to 10cm. Creeping plant forming mats in wet woodland; tiny yellow flower clusters.
Sweet violet, Viola odorata
Height up to 15cm. Scented purple or white flowers. Woods and hedgerows. Grows from creeping runners, unlike dog violet.
Wych elm, Ulmus glabra
Height up to 30m. Bunches of purple-pink flowers in February–March. Woodland and old hedgerows, especially in hills.
Also known as Scots elm.
Wood sorrel, Oxalis acetosella
Height up to 10cm. Delicate, drooping white flowers. Leaves in threes, like clover; taste acidic and lemony. Mossy woodland.
Marsh marigold, Caltha palustris
Height up to 30cm. Golden flowers like giant buttercups. Glossy green leaves. Water margins, ditches and damp or flooded woods.
Primrose, Primula vulgaris
Height up to 15cm. Yellow flowers in rosette of wrinkled leaves. Early-flowering or pink blooms may be garden polyanthus crosses.
Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum
Height usually under 30cm. Abundant ‘weed’ with pretty pink flowers; fern-like leaves redden with age. Whole plant smells mousy.
Germander speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys
Height up to 20cm. Brilliant azure flowers. One of the first flowers in pasture and grassy clearings and rides; also on banks.
Main image: Hawthorn hedge in bloom. © Dan Rosenholm/Getty
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Tools and Guides
- Plant Materials Technical Publications Relating to Plant Identification
- Plant Images
PLANTS Database Resources
The PLANTS Database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories.
- PLANTS Database
- Introduced, Invasive, and Noxious Plants
- Threatened and Endangered Plants
- PLANTS Interactive ID Keys
Wetland Flora Field Office Guides
Higher resolution images are available on the plant species’ pages of the NRCS-PLANTS Database http://plants.usda.gov
- Midwestern Wetland Flora Field Office Guide to Plant Species (PDF; 29.6 MB)
- Northeast Wetland Flora Field Office Guide to Plant Species (PDF; 20.4 MB)
- Southern Wetland Flora, Field Office Guide to Plant Species (PDF; 13.6 MB)
- Western Wetland Flora Field Office Guide to Plant Species (PDF; 23.9 MB)
- Seedling ID Guide for Native Prairie Plants (PDF; 2.3 MB) – The goal of this guide is to help identify native plants at various stages of growth.
- Conservation Plants Pocket ID Guide (PDF; 3.7 MB) -The purpose of this guide is to help you identify come commonly used conservation plants.
- Conservation Trees and Shrub Pocket ID Guide (PDF; 5.7 MB) -This book was developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as an aid in identifying trees and shrubs and to aid in their use for conservation purposes.
Cooperative Extension Publications
This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, RREA project 228285.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
© 2004, 2016
Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.
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