In everyday English, a berry is any small edible fruit.
Berries are usually juicy, round, brightly colored, sweet or sour, and do not have a stone or pit, although many pips or seeds may be present.
In botany, a berry is a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary. Berries so defined include grapes, chili peppers, and tomatoes, as well as cucumbers, eggplants and bananas, but exclude fruits commonly called berries.
While many berries are edible, some are poisonous to humans, such as deadly nightshade and pokeweed. Others, such as the white mulberry, red mulberry, and elderberry, are poisonous when unripe, but are edible when ripe.
Berries offer important ecological values and benefits to human beings. Beyond satisfying physical needs of the human body, berries also add to the wonder of nature with their rich tastes and varied colors. Human creativity not only has found innumerable uses for berries, but has also developed new varieties with desirable qualities.
The berry industry varies from country to country as do types of berries cultivated or growing in the wild. Some berries such as raspberries and strawberries have been bred for hundreds of years and are distinct from their wild counterparts, while other berries, such as lingonberries and cloudberries, grow almost exclusively in the wild.
Ecologically, the flowers of berry plants can be a major nectar source for pollinating insects, and the fruit is consumed by various animals.
Cheerfully offering themselves to passersby, berries have been juicy staples of the human diet for millennia.
They were a seasonal staple for early hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, and wild berry gathering remains a popular activity in Europe and North America today. In time, humans learned to store berries so that they could be used in the winter. They may be made into fruit preserves, and among Native Americans, mixed with meat and fats as pemmican.
Strawberries have been grown in gardens in Europe since the 14th century. Some species of blackberries and raspberries have been cultivated since the 17th century. Blueberries were domesticated starting in 1911, with the first commercial crop in 1916. Huckleberries of all varieties are not fully domesticated, but domestication was attempted from 1994–2010 for the economically significant western huckleberry.
In Japan, between the 10th and 18th centuries, the term ichibigo ichigo referred to many berry crops. The most widely cultivated berry of modern times, however, is the strawberry, which is produced globally at twice the amount of all other berry crops combined.
The word “berry” comes from the Old English berie, which originally meant “grape.” As the English language spread to the Americas with colonization, many native grape-shaped fruits that grew in bunches took on the berry suffix: blueberry, cranberry, elderberry, etc.
Other languages, like Spanish and French, do not combine the wide, diverse berry family into one group, but rather have very different words for blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.
There are about 50 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of mixed berries.
Berries are rich in antioxidants. In addition to antioxidants, they have many other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to overall health. These include folate, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, and magnesium. They are also extremely high in vitamin C!
The health benefits of berries include better digestive health, strengthened immune defense, brain health, healthy functioning of the heart, help lower cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar, help fight inflammation, prevention of cancer and relief from endothelial dysfunction. Berries provides cognitive benefits and aids in enhancing memory, weight management, keeping the bones strong, skin care, improving vision, keeping disease-free eyes, and normal blood clotting. They may also serve as a valuable food during pregnancy owing to an impressive range of nutrients.
Rare berries from around the world include: goji berries, chokeberry, crowberry, yangmei, calafate berry, sapodilla, salmonberry, saskatoon, snow berry and cloudberry.
Batology is the scientific study of plants in the genus Rubus, commonly known as brambles: raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries. So, batology isn’t the study of bats!
Berries have been used in some cultures for dyeing. Many berries contain juices that can easily stain, affording use as a natural dye. For example, blackberries are useful for making dyes, especially when ripe berries can easily release juice to produce a colorfast effect.