Bowl of Berries Berries, Herbs, Roots & Flowers

Subfamily Rosoideae contains around 850 species in at least 42 genera of mostly perennial shrubs and herbs. The subfamily is best known for decorative Roses, but a few species present us with familiar fruits, called berries. Others are not as well known as food, but provide herbs, roots and flowers. Many of these species are significant for medicinal uses.

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Brambles   -   [genus Rubus]
These plants produce fruits similar to plums and other Stone Fruit, but they are tiny and loosely glued together into clusters. The stones are so small they're eaten right along with the flesh.

Blackberry   -   [Rubus fruticosus   |   California Blackberry; Rubus ursinus]

Blackberries are cultivated in the temperate zones of North America, South America and Europe, particularly the British Isles. The US State of Oregon is the leading commercial producer. Since these plants hybridize easily there are many cultivars, both commercial and for home gardeners. Blackberries are generally quite a bit larger than the similar raspberries.

Blackberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and manganese as well as being high in antioxidants. Blackberries, including fruit, leaves and roots, have a number of medicinal uses.

Raspberry   -   [Rubus idaeus var idaeus (Eurasian), Rubus idaeus var strigosus (American), Rubus occidentalis (American Black Raspberry), others]

Raspberries are an important commercial crop throughout the northern temperate region. They are rather difficult to pack and ship fresh because they are so fragile, so most are frozen or processed into juices and flavorings. They now come in several colors.

Strawberries   -   [genus Fragaria]
These fruits consist of a cup shaped base that supports the ovaries. This base swells up and becomes convex as the fruit ripens. The true fruits, which we think of as seeds, remain embedded in the skin surface which is now the outside.

Garden Strawberry   -   [Fragaria x ananassa]

California produces 75% of the strawberries grown in the US, and Florida is second, growing mostly California varieties. Oregon also produces strawberries commercially but mostly the Canadian Totem variety more suited to processing than eating fresh.

Every other state claims their small berries are far superior in flavor to the big California berries, but the big berries are economical to harvest, ship well, and look really great on fruit plates. So important is the strawberry crop to California that a major new highway was routed around a patch of wild strawberries that are part of the gene pool used to develop the state's varieties.

Woodland Strawberry   -   [Alpine Strawberry, Wild European Strawberry; Fraises des Bois (French); Fragaria vesca] Woodland Strawberrys

These strawberries have been consumed by humans for more than 10,000 years but are today used mainly to flavor liqueurs, jams and sauces. They have a much stronger flavor than garden strawberries but are difficult to harvest due to their small size. The largest grower is Turkey, which exports most of the harvest to Europe. Photo by Foolip contributed to public domain.

Roses   -   [genus Rosa]
Of the many species and cultivars of roses, nearly all are purely decorative, but some are used in perfumery and a very few have culinary uses.

Damask Rose   -   [Rosa x damascena]
Rose Hips

This very fragrant rose is a hybrid of Rosa Gallica, probably from the Caucasus, and Rosa moschata, the Musk Rose, probably from the western Himalayas. It is important in manufacture of Rose Water, an important flavoring throughout India, Persia, the Middle East, and still used in parts of Europe.

Petals are used powdered in sauces in the cuisines of India, Persia and the Middle East, and Rose Water in many dishes, including meat, poultry and especially deserts. Rose petals and Rose Water were once more important in Europe, from ancient times into the Renaissance. Since then they have been largely replaced by vanilla, but are still used in some deserts. Rose syrup, made from rosewater and sugar, is popular in France, used in drinks and deserts.   Photo by Javad Yousefi distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Rose Hips   -   [Rosa canina]
Rose Hips Roses produce fruits structured similarly to apples and pears but much smaller and much less fleshy. Commercial rose hips come from a simple five petal rose (Rosa canina or Dog Rose) native to Europe and Western Asia. The fruits are used in herbal teas and otherwise for their high content of antioxidants, vitamin C and other medicinally important substances. It is reported that during the Vietnam War rose hips were dried, mixed with tobacco and smoked to produce mild hallucinations and abnormal dreams, but this needs verification.   Photo by MPF distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Burnet   -   [genus Sanguisorba]

Salad Burnet   -   [Garden Burnet, Small burnet; Sanguisorba minor   |   Great Burnet; Sanguisorba officinalis]
Leafy Plants

S. minor is a perennial herb growing to a bit less than 3 feet high, but usually lower. It is native to Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia, and has colonized most of North America. It is highly thought of as a salad ingredient, used in both salads and dressings, with a light cucumber-like flavor. It was favored by Thomas Jefferson and planted on his estate. Young leaves should be used as they become bitter with age. Medicinal virtues are similar to those of Great Burnet.

Great Burnet looks pretty much like Salad Burnet but is taller, growing to a little over 3 feet high. Leaves picked before flowering can be used raw in salads or cooked. Fresh or dried leaves are used in herbal teas. The plant has a number of medicinal uses.   Photo of S. minor by Archenzo distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Canadian Burnet   -   [American Burnet; Sanguisorba canadensis]
Leafy Plants

This perennial herb is native to bogs, marshes and roadsides from Labrador in Canada to Georgia in the United States, from Illinois to the East Coast. It grows to as much as 5 feet high. The leaves are edible with the light cucumber flavor found in Salad Burnet, but unless the leaves are very young they need to be cooked to remove the bitterness.   Photo by Montrealais distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

Silverweeds   -   [genus Argentina]
There are at least 4 species in this genus, but only one is noted for food use.

Common Silverweed   -   [Djüma, Toma, Doma, Droma (Tibet); Silverweed Cinquefoil, Goosewort, Goose grass, Goose tansy; Argentina anserina]
Leafy Plant

This plant is native to most of the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, spreading by runners and growing to about 8 inches high with yellow flowers. The underside of the leaves is covered with silvery hairs, thus the name "silverweed". While the roots were used as food in the Scottish Highlands before arrival of the potato, and by American Indians, today they are used mostly in Tibet and Nepal. The plant is also widely used as a medicinal, particularly for menstrual cramps and intestinal problems.

They are said to taste somewhat like parsnips. Preferably this is a cultivated crop because the roots of the wild varieties are small and stringy, but can still be dried and ground int flour as they were in Scotland for bread making. In Tibet they may be cooked with butter and sugar as a sweet, but more importantly the flour can be added to the porridge of barley flour and butter served to small children. The protein profile of Droma complements that of barley, the main Tibetan staple.   Photo by Sanse distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike v3.0 Unported.

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