Barberry, Oregon grape, mahonia, tall Oregon grape, tall mahonia, dull Oregon grape, poor man’s red currant
épine-vinette (French), Berbesbeere (German), berbero/crespino (Italian), uva-espim (Portugese), berberis (Danish/Norwegian/Swedish), happomarja (Finnish), barbaris (Russian), kisel trun (Bulgarian), diken üzümü (Turkish), zereshk (Persian), chitra (Hindi), megi (B. thunbergii) (Japanese)
Barberries are the fruits of a shrub of which many species grow wild throughout the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and America.
A closely related genus, Mahonia, is a familiar ornamental shrub in western countries; but it, too, has a wide distribution. Some shrubs that were formerly thought to be barberries have now been reassigned to Mahonia. All the species bear fruits that are edible but very sour.
The Berberis berries are generally red, but vary from coral to deep crimson, and almost black. B. vulgaris, the common barberry of Europe and Asia, has elongated, bright red berries that hang in clusters.
Mahonia berries are generally blue or bluish. Several of the species bear such names as the Oregon grape or hollygrape. Others are associated with Mexico or the US southwest.
Traditional uses include preserving them in syrup or vinegar to sharpen their flavour and making them into jams and jellies.
The French “confiture d’épinevinette” is made from a seedless variety of B. vulgaris, and is a specialty of Rouen and Dijon.
In India, some species are sun-dried to make sour currants or “raisins”, which are eaten as a dessert.