[Sca-cooks] cranberries

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Fri Oct 9 11:15:28 PDT 2009

Here's something I wrote about barberries from July of 2001.
(This would have been one of my early posts)

I had some time on my hands this morning, so I ran barberries through
my library here at home. Here is what I found:

Barberries  (berberis vulgaris) grew in hedgerows and "bushy places".
Livingston indicates that they grew wild in  Europe, especially in
with a related species found in North America. They ripened in autumn.
Alan Davidson refers to them as a "poorman's red currant."
They were valued for use in the Middle Ages because they are a fairly
acid red berry that would jell without the use of pectin. They were
candied, pickled, conserved, eaten out of hand, and used in garnishes.
Geoffrey Grigson noted that they were the fruit of a yellow barked shrub
and as such were valued for treatment of "yellow diseases", i.e.

In the Caucasus, they were used in jams, jellies, and dried for use
as seasonings. Facciola indicates that in Iranian cuisine, the dried
berries were called zereshk and were used as a sour flavoring.  A search
on Google reveals that "ZERESHK" berries are currently available
on the internet from a number of Middle Eastern grocers.
Indian cuisine dried some species and used them as "sour currants" in

The related North American version with blue,  not red berries,
is called commonly the Oregon Grape, Hollygrape, Rocky Mountain grape,
hollyleaved barberry, California barberry, and trailing mahonia.
It is found in the Northwest and Southwest US and Mexico. Bear Creek
Nursery in Northport, WA offered both a Japanese barberry and the
Oregon Grape for sale in their 1999/2000 catalogue.

They are not common in the wild today in England because they
were systematically eradicated as they were a host to a black
rust fungus that attacks cereal crops. That's why Hilary Spurling
chose to use imported cranberries for the barberry recipes in her
edition of Fettiplace.

Hope this helps answer some of the questions regarding them.


Johnnae llyn Lewis

On Oct 9, 2009, at 2:07 PM, Nancy Kiel wrote:

> I'm not sure what particular use of cranberries you're looking for,  
> but I think they might be a New World substitue for barberries,  
> which are called for in period receipts.  Never having tasted a  
> barberry, I can't speak to their flavour, but I believe it's fairly  
> tart.
>> where cranberries known in period Europe?
>> Theadora

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