I spent this morning decking the halls with boughs of holly. For reals! And for the first time ever. La Cressonnière happens to have a huge holly bush (of course it does), so I harvested some branches and I’m using them to fill in the double-decker mantle over the living room fireplace. I have never had access to fresh holly before, but it is gorgeous and Christmas-y. And poky. (Use gloves.)

I’m not going to lie, the mantel is looking awesome. And while I was installing the holly, I kept looking at Ben Blair and saying, “Is this place for real?” And, “How in the world are we going to live somewhere else after this?

I will definitely share some pictures when I finish up, but right now, berries are on my mind. In addition to the holly, there are all sorts of varieties of gorgeous berries that grow along the roads here in the countryside.

During one of our blackberry picking sessions, I snapped these photos of unknown-to-me berries. Obviously, I would never consume any unknown fruits, but some of them definitely looked good enough to eat. It makes me long for a field guide to edible plants, and makes me wonder how humans and other animals figured out which berries were thumbs up and which ones were poisonous. Was it really just trial and error? (Yikes!)

I know. Pretty random thoughts for a Wednesday. : )

Have you ever come upon berries in the wild and wanted to eat them? Have you ever tried a non-edible berry by mistake?

44 thoughts on “Berries”

  1. The first photo: rosehip, isn’t it? I love them, and use it a lot, especially in the colder months — my grandmother picks them for me every year, it’s very common in the Hungarian countryside. If you put 1 tbsp of rosehip in a glass of cold water and let it soak for a day, you’ll have a wonderful “tea”, full of vitamin C. And the rosehip marmelade is divine too! :)
    The second photo: I have no idea, but I see them a lot around here, I’ll definitely look it up somewhere!

    1. Vera, I was about to say that photo #3 (first one after the holly berries) looks like rosehips. I dried & ground up some last week & I’ve already used it to keep a cold at bay. The English way of making tea is a bit different, though: pour boiling water over the filtered hips (you want to get rid of the “hairs” that are inside the hips — just shake them through a strainer) & let sit for 5 minutes. Anything left over is great as a skin tonic.

        1. As long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, yes! I also don’t gather rosehips along roadsides, just because they can absorb the icky chemicals from cars. :)

      1. Yes, I used to do it that way too, but then my mom enlightened me: hot water destroys vitamin C. :) I like it both ways though!

  2. Growing up, the woods around our house were full of huckleberries (like little blueberries) which we ate all the time while playing. My mother made sure we knew the difference between those and pokeberries (don’t know if that’s the official name) which are poisonous.
    Lovely berry pictures. Can’t wait to see your decorations!

  3. La Cressoniere is a true gem, I just looked back at your living room pics and wow! I bet with the Holly it looks gorgeous. Did you know I’m living a bit vicariously through your French countryside experience? We are in a tiny apartment in Paris, having moved from the bucolic countryside of Vermont. All in all it is wonderful but I do miss the fresh air and beauty of nature.
    A few years ago my husband ate some red mystery berries and it was scary. He said his mouth was on fire and he felt sick to his stomach and dizzy. He didn’t even swallow it, just put it in his mouth. Do not eat mystery berries!

  4. I’ve only ever eaten wild blackberries/dewberries. And I know 100% what they look like. I don’t think I would ever eat a wild berry in a place I haven’t lived for very long!
    I also wondered about how people figured out what was edible. Did they feed things to dogs?

  5. Such lovely photos!

    I remember seeing a “survival film” when I was a child and the advice in the film was to only eat fruits/nuts that you see birds eating. Of course, later experts said that was a bad idea too, as birds were found to consume berries known to be poisonous in humans. LOL! SO much for my survival expertise, eh?

    1. I had no idea about birds and poisonous berries. I would have totally guessed that if the fruit was safe for birds or other creatures that it would be fine for humans. So fascinating!

  6. I often think about the edible versus non-edible food stuffs as well. How did the indigenous populations learn this? (similar to cooking meat, what to eat, what not to eat). I’ve never eaten anything I didn’t for sure know what it was.

    And after what we go through to have children it amazes me the human race survived!

    I imagine it will be v hard to leave La Cressonnière, less than 3 months now?

  7. Hi Gabrielle,

    I can’t wait to see your mantle. I’m sure its beautiful! You mentioned how it would be difficult to live any where else after living at La Cressonniere. Its hard to believe you and your family have been there for almost a year! Any thoughts to were you will live next?

  8. Hi Gabrielle
    I can’t wait to see your mantle. I’m sure its beautiful! You mentioned how it would be difficult to live any where else after living at La Cressonniere. Its hard to believe you and your family have been there for almost a year! Any thoughts to were you will live next?

  9. I went to summer camp in Germany and we ate wild berries while hiking. I think they were Johannesberries, but can’t recall exactly. It woudl be fun to get a local nature book and see what you can find, maybe make notes as you explore. It would be a wonderful reminder of your time in France.

  10. Just yesterday my kids and I were on a hike and we saw the red Tonyon berries (aka California holly) covering the Tonyon trees. One of my boys said he wanted to eat some they looked so good.
    Not having my feild guide or knowing if they are poisonous or not, I said no.
    We then asked the question that you asked.
    My boys then decided that people watched animals to decide if a plant was OK to eat.
    Life before feild guides!
    Your place sounds so amazing and I try not to be jealous every time I read about it. :)
    Love from,

  11. Very tempting indeed… so just pick a sample (fruits and leaves) and bring them to your local “pharmacie” : they will tell you whether toxic or not. Same with wild mushrooms… You can just go for advice – no need to buy anything or to be sick – it’s a service pharmacists usually provide and a knowledge they are happy to share… of course it does not really answer your original question but then you will know whether you can try them or not as edible berries… I guess the first people who ate poisonous fruits warned their pairs about not doing the same mistake and it became common knowledge after a while and a few more casualties (before scientists were able to analyse things more closely). Enjoy your stay in this beautiful home… mine is in the US while being a French mom…Cheers.

  12. I studied wildlife biology in college and got quite good at identifying edible wild plants in my area (they’re totally different in other regions!), so yes, I’ve eaten lots of wild foods! I’m sure there are guides to edible wild plants in Normandy – check the local library! And no, don’t just put them in your mouth – that’s BAD. ;)

  13. Just a few weeks ago I found what looked like wild strawberries growing in our lawn (I don’t know how I never noticed them before!). But since I wasn’t totally sure that’s what they were, I didn’t eat them. There were only three berries, and they were tiny, but I really wanted to try them.

  14. I live in East Tennessee and wild blueberries are abundant in the mountains. My kids get a big kick out of eating them right of the bush! However, I avoid any red berries in the wild because I can never identify them.

  15. I just love how La Cressonnière has had so many gifts to offer you and your family…and what a blessing to discover them each time! I, too, have found myself thinking about your year coming to an end & was glad to see that you’ll be staying on longer….what a wonderful “burden,” though, trying to decide how much longer to stay!

  16. Yes! I eat the wild berries that I know and recognize. Yes, there was one time I tried a wild strawberry that wasn’t a wild strawberry…. and yes, I take pictures of unknown-to-me berries and ask for an ID on flickr if I can’t figure it out through my own searching! Love that curiosity and joy of finding something good to eat in nature.

  17. This house you rented has everything! I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to that place! Oh, just caught a re-run of your House Hunters episode. You guys make an adorable couple! (And your hair is FABULOUS).


  18. i think i just may go broke after visiting all these great websites! what a great way to spark young imagination, by surrounding the kiddies with such inspirational and beautiful toys, clothing and decor!

  19. I hope you share pictures of the decorated mantle. I have a huge holly bush that grows next to my driveway. I am excited to trim it and our boxwoods to try to make my house glamourous. I guess I better stop daydreaming and get at it!

  20. Nice photos, the berries are appealing. I don’t eat anything in the wild unless I KNOW what it is.

    Can’t wait to see your mantel and how it looks with the holly. Holly has very sharp leaves…if you dig in the dirt near holly you need to wear gloves, even after being in the ground for a year the leaves are still sharp. Got me through leather gloves once!

  21. My Mum used to make rose hip syrup when we were small. As kids we used to scrape out the insides and use them as itching powder (delightful). On holiday in France this summer my 3 y o ate a load when we weren’t looking. This is when we learnt the translation gratte-cul (even more delightful). So a great berry in the right hands!

  22. I saw a real Holly berries bush years ago when I visited my sister in Ireland. That was the first time I realized that they exist for real, not just a made up plants for Christmas. Silly, I know.. But I’m Thai and grew up in a tropical country : )

  23. This is my first comment on your blog (actually on any blog). As a graphic designer mom, I can totally relate to so many of your posts and I appreciate the beautiful photography and design sensibility. Keep up the good work :)

  24. My dad was an Army Ranger and once told me that they were told that if they weren’t sure what a berry was in the wild but NEEDED to eat, that you could touch the berry half on your lip and if it burned/stung/hurt within an hour or so, it was poisonous. I always wondered if that would ALWAYS happen if it were poisonous. I don’t think I’d risk the pain unless needed.

  25. i don’t know if anyone else commented on how to tell if something from the wild is safe to eat. i think there are like three steps… first, rub the juice on a tiny patch of skin. if nothing happens after like 6 hours, rub a tiny bit of juice on your gums. if nothing happens in like 12 hours, nibble a tiny bit. If you survive, it might be safe to eat a little bit & see what happens. i do not think i would try anything unfamiliar unless i was starving to death. but you never know!

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