Common barberry

Berberis vulgaris

The common barberry is known for its versatile culinary contribution as well as its rich medicinal properties. The nutritious sour leaves that are picked before blooming suit well into spring-time soups or salads. However, the tiny vitamin-C-rich jewel-like fruits of this beautiful shrub definitely take the centre stage. The sharply acidic flavoured barberries are diversely used around the world. In Europe, the berries have been used more as an ingredient in making jellies or jams, because the berries are high in pectin, a congealing agent. The berries are also used to make drinks such as wines, liquors, juices. In the old days, steamed barberry juice was even used as a substitute for vinegar, hence another name for them — vinegar-berry — in vernacular estonian. Also the well-known Eastern European candy barbariss is made using the extract from barberries. In Iran, the dried barberries, known as zereshki, are widely used in the local cuisine. Commonly, zereshki are mixed into rice or pilaf dishes and served with chicken.