|Fruit of the Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)|
The other day I posted a shot video on the Bushcraft Education facebook page of my daughter Lillie giving my son Michael a snowberry and his reaction to the hideously bitter fruit. I wanted to clarify a bit about snowberry, it is not native to the UK but instead was introduced from it's native North America as an ornament and as cover for game birds. Snowberry is related to honeysuckle and it's foliage is poisonous; among other things it contains saponins (which make plants that contain them, soapwort, the leaves of horse chestnut etc.., useful as soap, but shouldn't be ingested) and other toxins.
The berries of Common Snowberry however have been used as 'famine food' in North America in centuries gone by but were never a favorite food (McWilliams 2000). There have been records of poisoning from snowberry fruit and it may be that some species (there are over a dozen) are more poisonous than others, but the Common Snowberry was certainly used as food and I have eaten plenty and never suffered any ill effects, although they should not be eaten in large quantities and if they were would certainly make you sick. While I wouldn't recommend them as a tasty treat like wineberries, mulberries, blackberries or really any other wild fruit they are worth knowing about.