Barberry is a shrub that can grow up to 6 feet high. It is prized for its edible fruits. Its red berries, called berberis in Arabic and zereshk in Persian, can be eaten raw or cooked.
The fruits of this plant (Barberie vulgaris) have a nice tart flavor, with a nice reddish color. This shrub is very thorny, which makes hand harvesting its berries rather difficult.
Since ancient times, the people of the Himalayas had recognized its therapeutic benefits and they used barberry for the preparation of beverages. In the Middle Ages, we find in Italy the first written documented use of barberry in medicine. In the first century of our era, the Greeks also consumed its extract. The Arab physician Al Razi aka Rhazes was a pioneer in recommending the use of barberry juice for the treatment of fever, thirst and inflammation. Barberry is used for making jelly, syrups or soft drinks, but the fruit can also be preserved and then served as capers.
Iran is the largest producer and consumer of barberry which enter into the composition of zereshk polo (barberry rice). The red berries give a unique color and acidity to this traditional dish.
The green berries, with their tart taste, are also used in hot sauces or roasted meats.
In Russia, a confection called Барбарис (Barberis) is made from the extract of barberry.
In Europe, the berries which are rich in pectin have traditionally been used to make jam.
The fruits of barberry, also rich in vitamin C can be consumed as infusions. The bark of the shoots and roots has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Its fine and hard, yellow wood is used in marquetry and dyeing.
Where can you find barberry?
You can usually find barberry under the name zereshk (or berberis) in Iranian stores.