Are Whitebeam berries edible?

are whitebeam berries edible

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Are Whitebeam Berries Edible?

Whitebeam trees, or Sorbus aria, are commonly found lining our city streets and avenues, parks and gardens with their white-bottomed leaves, their fluffy white blossoms, and their autumnal mass of orangey-red berries. But, the question is, are they edible?

The answer, is yes and no. Whitebeam berries are indeed edible, but like rowan, must be harvested at the right time and prepared in the right way. (Oh, and they are not actually berries! More on this below …)

When should you harvest whitebeam berries?

If picked and eaten before they are ready, whitebeam berries can be terribly astringent and really pucker up the insides of your mouth. However, if they are allowed to remain on the tree or hang around until after the first frosts, they lose a lot of their astringency.

Additionally, if they are allowed to hang around until almost about to rot, they become quite sweet to taste. A little like the persimmon fruits.

There is one catch however… if you leave them hanging around for too long, the birds will beat you to it. Since whitebeam berries are a highly loved and highly coveted food source for migrating and visiting birds.

For this reason, it is also important to remember, if you do decide to harvest whitebeam berries, to make sure you take only what you need and leave plenty for our feathered friends.

The Mushroom Course

How are whitebeam berries prepared?

Much like any wild berries, the first steps involved in preparing them for use, are to wash them thoroughly and pick them over – removing any rotting, damaged or suspicious fruit, and then remove their stalks.
Next, remember how I said that whitebeam berries lose their astringency and sweeten up after being hit by the frosts? Considering this, the next step in preparing whitebeam berries is to pop them in the freezer for 48 hours to stimulate a good hard frost.
After this, they are ready to use! (Just, as with all wild foods, please make sure you are 100% certain about their identity before you consume them. If in doubt, leave it out!)

How to use whitebeam berries

In days gone by, whitebeam was used in a variety of ways. A good source of vitamin C, its fruits were dried, a bit like raisons and eaten as a snack. Or it was combined with other fruits and made into a jam.
In addition, it was used as a fall-back food in times of hunger and starvation when the dried fruits were pulvarised to help bulk out foraged grain flours like plantain, or the seeds inside were ground and used as a sort of flour. (It is worth noting that like apples, whitebeam berry seeds contain small amounts or cyanoglycosides, so should be avoided or eaten in moderation).
In fact, the German name for whitebeam is mehlbeere, meaning meal berry and even today you can find avenues of whitebeam in many older towns and cities in Germany and across Scandinavia where they were grown specifically for this purpose.
But these days (and then, of course) a nicer way to use it was to make whitebeam jams or jelly by combining it with other fruit, such as hawthorn, cooking apples or crab apples.

How to make whitebeam berry jelly

To make whitebeam jelly, you will need:

  • 1kg whitebeam berries
  • 1.5kg cooking apples
  • 3.5ltr water
  • 1.2kg sugar
  • Strainers, jelly bag or muslin
  • A jam pan
  • Sterilised jars

Start by cleaning and preparing the fruit as discussed above. (Don’t forget the freezing part!) Then add them to 2.5 litres of cold water and allow to come to a gentle boil.

Simmer gently for about 10 minutes to help the berries soften, then add your chopped up cooking apples. Then allow it to simmer, stirring regularly, for about 35 minutes until everything is nice and soft. To help this along, you can use a potato masher to gently squash it.

When it is ready, strain it through a small-holed strainer or sieve to remove the larger bits, then pour the remainder into a muslin or jelly bag and allow it to filter through. (This may take a while…) Then return the liquid you have collected to your pan, mix it with 1 litre of boiling water, and re-filter it again.

Next, measure out your filteres liquid before pouring it into your pan and reheat it to a gentle simmer before adding some sugar. You will need to add 800g of sugar for every 1 litre of liquid you have collected. Then stir regularly while bringing the sugar-liquid mixture to the boil.

Boil your mixture for about 30 minutes, then start set-testing it. For this, you will need a nice cold plate. Take a little bit of your bubbling mixture and put it onto the cold plate. Let it cool for a few minutes and see if it sets (the surface should wrinkle up if you push it). If it has not set, continue boiling the mixture for another 5 minutes and then try again.

Once you have reached the setting point, remove your pan from the heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before pouring it into some clean, sterilised jars.



Well, there we go! I hope you enjoyed this little guide to our whitebeam berries. If you try using them, I would love to know how they turned out. Or, if you know of any other lovely recipes, let me know in the comments below.

In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and if you need some more foraging ideas, check out these books below x

Disclaimer: Please note, these guides are affiliate links, so I may recieve a small commission if you choose to purchase any item. This will not affect the price you pay, but it will help me keep this site going x

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