How to Recognize Which Berries are Safe to Eat

Berries are a quick and easy way to feed yourself in the wild in case you’ve run out of supplies recently and aren’t really a good hunter. However, not all are created equal and not being aware of this simple fact can often cause you a lot of trouble. Certain berries can be non-edible, or they can be straight out poisonous, and learning to recognize them is the only way you’ll know if they’re safe to eat or not. In this short guide, I’m going to attempt to explain, very simply, how you can avoid this an issue like this by giving you some basic tips about the berries that you can eat, and those that you absolutely should not.

Don’t Risk It

First of all, I have to say that if you aren’t a hundred percent certain about a wild berry being edible/poisonous or not, you absolutely must not eat it. Your body is way too important to risk poisoning it just because it “might be fine”, and you don’t have to eat the first berry you stumble upon. I’ve seen dozens of people do this, and a large number of them regretted it a few hours later when the berry made its way through their organism.

The Colors

That being said, you can tell a lot about a berry just by looking at its color, because its color is a result of its chemical properties and it’s those that decide whether the berry is poisonous or not. For example, most white, green and yellow wild berries are absolutely poisonous and to be safe you should stay away from all of them no matter what. Red berries are another case entirely, as around 50% of them are perfectly edible. You do have to watch out for the other 50% though, so unless you have a good idea of what you’re eating you should still be very careful.

Berries that are black and blue in color are, ninety-five percent of the time, perfectly edible. Several of them are poisonous so you should still be careful, but most of the time you can eat a black berry with no concern at all.

Get a Berry Guide

There are dozens of quick guides on berries that you can pick up or find online, that will tell you all you need to know about the most commonly found berries in America, and having one of these on-hand can help you instantly recognize a berry and know all of its characteristics.

The Edible Berry Test

If all else fails, there’s actually a little trick you can do in order to make sure whether a berry is poisonous or not. Take one or two berries, smash them into a pulp and first rub just a little bit of it on your skin. Wait a couple of minutes. If any kind of irritation or skin reaction shows up then you probably shouldn’t be eating that berry. If not, try the same thing with your lips and tongue, just a dab of pulp on each and wait a few extra minutes. If there’s still nothing, the berry is almost certainly safe to eat.


As you can see, it’s not really that difficult to successfully stay away from poisoned berries in the wilderness, if you have the right know-how. Berries can really be a lifesaver during a true survival situation, so knowing your way around them can always be a big help. I wish you the best of luck on your next survival expedition, and remember to be wary around your berries!


This is an archive of: