Barberry are the dried, ripe, edible berries from a species of berberis, rich in vitamin C, but with a sharp acid flavor. The berries are used for culinary purposes to impart a citrus peel flavor and are commonly used in rice pilafs and as a flavoring for chicken.
Barberry is a feature of Persian cuisine. In Afghan and Iranian cooking, barberry flavors rice dishes, known as Polow (in Persian) and Pilau (in Dari).
In Iran it is used in kookoo-ye sabzi (an herb omelet) and Zereshk-polow (rice mixed with barberry served with chicken).
In India, pickled barberries are served with curries or used like raisins in desserts.
In Patagonia, Argentina and Chile. the edible fruits are used for jams and infusions. Anyone who tries a berry is said to be certain to return to Patagonia.
Appreciated for their high citric acid content, barberries are cherry-red in color and resemble a small, red currant. The flavor is pleasantly acidic and somewhat fruity.
Barberry contains the chemical Berberine which has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and may help the immune system function better.
The aqueous extract of barberry has beneficial effects on both the cardiovascular and neural system. As such, it may be useful in the treatment of hypertension, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and some neuronal disorders, such as epilepsy and convulsions.
Recent studies also show that barberry also has high antioxidant properties.
Barberry is also considered anti-fungal, and may be useful in treating infections associated with yeast, including acne and skin disorders.
Barberry may act on the smooth muscles of the intestines aiding in digestion.
Unique properties associated with berberine may be soothing to the nervous system and have been used as a sedative.
Other Common Names
European Barberry, Sowberry, Berbery, Pipperidge Bush, Holy Thorn, Zareshk.