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Gardening – Edible Berry Shrubs

A slice of berry pie. Whether they're on your cereal or in jams, jellies and pies, berries are a favorite sweet treat and there are species that are native to our area – providing a sustainable garden that also supports native pollinators.

The wild fruit of Wisconsin offers a variety of fresh and delicious flavors. They can be used alone or combined with other fruit for a unique twist in your favorite jam, sauce or baking recipes. Include these plants in your ‘edible forest’ or general landscape, and have a bounty that you can both enjoy and share with the birds, bees and butterflies that visit your garden!

Edible gardening generally brings to mind beds of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, and other foods with origins in distant continents. As natives of often vastly different climates and growing conditions, many of these plants require a lot of time and attention to bring to a successful harvest

Bowl of cereal with berries and milk You may find many of the native plants described below already growing. In a rapidly destabilizing world and economy, it’s worth identifying them and protecting them (from the mower or deer that might devour them first, or from invasive plants that might crowd them out).

Many of the native plants mentioned here are still fairly common in the wild, although increasing development, the spread of exotic invasive plants, and expanding interest in wild foraging is putting real pressure on wild populations. Home cultivation of these native plants for edible usage is a sustainable way for property owners to increase their self-reliance, help maintain existing wild populations of valuable plants and the genetic resilience they hold, as well as support the vast array of wildlife that depend on the presence of native plants for their own survival.

Wisconsin Native Berry Shrubs

Allegheny Blackberry, Rubus allegheniensis Allegheny Blackberry
Benefits: Bees, Birds
Height: 6-12 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Shade, Shade
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Moist
Color: White

Fruit: The berries have a sweet taste and a firm texture which are used for fresh eating, cooking, baking and preserves.

Riverbank Grape, Vitis riparia Riverbank Grape
Benefits: Birds
Height: 36-72 feet feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Part Shade, Shade
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil : Loam
Moisture: Dry, Medium, Moist
Color: White, Green, Yellow, Brown

Fruit: Berries are often sour until after a frost, then turn more sweet-tart. Making juice from these and the grapes freeze well so they can be used for juice throughout the winter. The leaves are also edible.

Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana Wild Strawberry
Benefits: Bees, Birds, Butterflies
Height: 4-7 inches
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam, Sand
Moisture: Dry, Medium, Moist
Color: White

Fruit: The wild strawberry is highly sought after.While the fruit is used as a sweet snack, the roots of the plant are also used to make tea. The tea is used to treat diarrhea, ailments of the lungs and stomach, and dry skin.

Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca Woodland Strawberry
Benefits: Bees, Butterflies
Height: 1/2 to 3/4 inches
Bloom Time: Summer
Sun: Fulll Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Medium, Moist, Wet
Color: White

Fruit: The trawberry fruit is strongly flavored, and is still collected and grown for domestic use and on a small scale commercially for the use of gourmets and as an ingredient for commercial jam, sauces, liqueurs, cosmetics and alternative medicine.

Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Lowbush Blueberry
Benefits: Bees, Butterflies
Height: 1-2 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Sand, Loam
Moisture: Dry, Medium, Moise
Color: Whie

Fruit: A very sweet pleasant flavour with a slight taste of honey. The fruit can be dried and used like raisins.

Velvetleaf Blueberry, Vaccinium myrtilloides Velvetleaf Blueberry
Benefits: Birds, Butterflies
Height: 4-12 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Sand
Moisture: Moist
Color: Pink, Purple,White, Brown

Fruit: More acid than most blueberries with an agreeable piquancy. They can be eaten fresh or used in pies, preserves etc. The fruit can also be dried for later use.

Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum trilobum Highbush Cranberry
Benefits: Bees
Height: 8-15 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Clay, Loam, Sand
Moisture: Medium, Moist
Color: White

Fruit: The can be eaten raw, though not very tasty that way, or cooked, and they are rich in vitamin C and so have a tart, acid taste (the taste is best after a frost and when picked slightly under-ripe). They are an excellent substitute for cranberries and are likewise used in preserves, jams, jellies, sauces, etc.

Missouri Gooseberry, Ribes missouriense Missouri Gooseberry
Benefits: Birds, Butterflies
Height: 2-4 feet feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Medium
Color: Green

Fruit: They have a rich sub-acid vinous flavour that is very agreeable, the fruit is somewhat too acid to be eaten raw for most tastes but when fully ripe makes delicious tarts and pies. The fruit can be dried for later use

Red Raspberry, Rubus  idaeus Red Raspberry
Benefits: Birds, Butterflies
Height: 3-9 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 5
Soil: Loam
Moisture: Medium
Color: Pink, Purple

Fruit: Delicious when eaten out of hand, the fruit is also used in pies, preserves etc. The root, which should be neither too young nor too old, requires a lot of boiling[. Young shoots can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus.

Black Raspberry, Rubus occidentalis Black Raspberry
Benefits: Bees, Birds
Height: 6-12 feet
Bloom Time: Spring
Sun: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade
Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5
Soil: Loam, Sand, Rocky
Moisture: Medium
Color: White

Fruit: Fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and used in pies, preserves etc. It is of variable quality, with the finest forms having a rich acid flavour. Young shoots can be eaten raw or cooked like rhubarb.

Further Information

Wisconsin Native Fruit Trees
Wisconsin Native Fern
Dandelion Recipes
4 Ways To Use Eggshells For Your Plants
10 Ways to Use Banana Peels in Your Garden