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Berberis vulgaris

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Berberis vulgaris, also known as common barberry,<ref name=PLANTS>Template:PLANTS</ref> European barberry or simply barberry, is a shrub in the genus Berberis. It produces edible but sharply acidic berries, which people in many countries eat as a tart and refreshing fruit.

The shrub is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia;<ref>Altervista Flora Italiana, Crespino comune, Sowberry, Common Barberry, vinettier, espino cambrón, Sauerdorn, Berberis vulgaris L. includes photos, drawings, and European distribution map</ref> it is also naturalised in northern Europe, including the British Isles and Scandinavia, and North America. In the United States and Canada, it has become established in the wild over an area from Nova Scotia to Nebraska, with additional populations in Colorado, Idaho, Washington State, Montana, and British Columbia.<ref>Flora of North America vol 3</ref> Although not naturalised, in rural New Zealand it has been widely cultivated as a hedge on farms. It is cultivated for its fruits in many countries.

It is a deciduous shrub growing up to Template:Convert high. The leaves are small oval, Template:Convert long and Template:Convert broad, with a serrated margin; they are borne in clusters of 2–5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 3–8 mm long. The flowers are yellow, Template:Convert across, produced on Template:Convert long panicles in late spring. The fruit is an oblong red berry Template:Convert long and Template:Convert broad, ripening in late summer or autumn; they are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.

Culinary uses

Dried barberries

The berries are edible and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavor; the thorny shrubs make harvesting them difficult, so in most places, they are not widely consumed. They are an important food for many small birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings.

A widely available Russian candy called Барбарис (Barberis) is made using extract from the berries, which are pictured on the wrapper.

In Europe, the berries have been traditionally used as an ingredient in making jam. The berries are high in pectin which makes the jam congeal as it cools after having been boiled. In southwestern Asia, especially Iran, the berries are used for cooking, as well as for jam-making. In Iran, barberries are commonly used as a currant in rice pilaf.

Zereshk (زرشک) or sereshk is the Persian name for the dried fruit of Berberis spp., specially that of Berberis integerrima 'Bidaneh',<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> which is widely cultivated in Iran. Iran is the largest producer of zereshk and saffron in the world. Zereshk and saffron are produced on the same land and the harvest is at the same time.

The South Khorasan province in Iran is the main area of zereshk and saffron production in the world, especially around Birjand and Qaen. About 85% of production is in Qaen and about 15% in Birjand. There is evidence of cultivation of seedless barberry in South Khorasan two hundred years ago.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

A garden of zereshk is called zereshk-estan.

Zereshk is widely used in cooking, imparting a tart flavor to chicken dishes. It is usually cooked with rice, called zereshk polo, and provides a nice meal with chicken.

Other uses

The plant is both poisonous and used in folk medicine.<ref name="vogl">Template:Cite journal</ref><ref name=theatlanticonnsa/><ref name=drugsbarberry/><ref name=plantencyclopedia>Template:Cite web</ref>

It has been widely cultivated for hedges in New Zealand.<ref>Template:Cite bookTemplate:Page needed</ref> Berberis vulgaris (European barberry) is the alternate host species of the wheat rust fungus (Puccinia graminis), a grass-infecting rust fungus that is a serious fungal disease of wheat and related grains. For this reason, cultivation of B. vulgaris is prohibited in Canada<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and some areas of the United States (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire<ref name=PLANTS/>).

Salishan elders have used M. aquifolium to treat acne<ref name=turnernj1990>Template:Cite journal</ref> and native American Indians utilized barberries to treat scurvy.<ref name=fosters1999>Template:Cite book</ref> A decoction of the plant has been used to treat gastrointestinal ailments and coughs.<ref name=schauenbergp1977>Template:Cite book</ref>

The edible fruits have been used to prepare jams, jellies, and juices. The use of the plant in traditional medicine has been limited by the bitter taste of the bark and root. However, numerous folk medicinal uses for barberry exist.<ref name=dukeja1985>Template:Cite book</ref><ref name=hartwelljl1971>Template:Cite journal</ref> Other reported uses of M. aquifolium include the treatment of fever, gout, renal and biliary diseases, rheumatic symptoms, diarrhea, gastric indigestion, and dermatosis.<ref name=psoriasisvulgaris>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref name=mahoniaaquifolium>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Berberine, the active ingredient in barberry, inhibits the growth of bacteria and has antioxidant properties in vitro.<ref name=theatlanticonnsa>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=drugsbarberry>Template:Cite web</ref> Barberry extract may also improve symptoms of certain skin conditions, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.<ref name=theatlanticonnsa/><ref name=drugsbarberry/>

Barberry fruits have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea, jelly, or syrup for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever, infections, cold, and flu.<ref name=vogl/>

See also

  • Berberis microphylla, calafate (a related shrub with similar berries, native in temperate South America)

References

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External links

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