How to Identify Edible Berries

By Dan Richter; Updated April 25, 2017
Wild blueberries can be found in many parts of the United States during summertime.

It’s not uncommon to come across wild berries while hiking or camping out in the woods. During such trips you may find that you failed to pack an adequate amount of food and thus may turn to nature for food. Wild berries can be found nearly anywhere in the wild, from meadows and nature trails to mountains and national parks. Many wild berries are safe for human consumption, however some can cause illness or even death if ingested. That is why it is important to be able to identify edible berries in the wild.

Look for wild berries that you recognize upon sight. Wild berries, such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries all look like their domesticated counterparts that you find in grocery stores and markets. Wild berries are usually slightly smaller than ones sold in stores but are just as safe to eat.

Taste the wild berries that you find. If the berry tastes sweet and has a taste you recognize, it should be safe to eat. If the berry has a harsh, bitter or off flavor, it is most likely inedible and should be spit out immediately. With a few rare exceptions, most berries can only poison you if you ingest them.

Buy a wild plant and berry identification guide book. Take the book with you into the wild and consult the book when you come across any berries that you are unfamiliar with. Nearly all guides show photos or illustrations to help you determine what you find and if it is edible or not.

Educate yourself on edible berries. Consult a berry guide book or other references to learn when edible berries are typically in season and where they can be found. For example, you can find out that strawberries typically ripen in early summer and that strawberry plants have white flowers. You then know that if you find a strawberry-looking berry in early march that it’s likely not a wild strawberry.


Poison ivy berries are one of the only berries that can make you ill or be lethal through taste testing. Poison ivy berries are round and can be either green or white so do not risk eating any berries that look like this.

About the Author

Dan Richter began freelance writing in 2006. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the "Wausau Daily Herald," "Stevens Point Journal," "Central Wisconsin Business Magazine" and the "Iowa City Press-Citizen." Richter graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and media studies.