Local Forages: Lemonade Berry

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Lemonade Berry 

(Rhus integrifolia )

Lemonade Berry is a drought-tolerant, native, evergreen shrub that makes delicious fruits that ripen around the end of August through the end of October.  It can commonly be found on north-facing bluffs in coastal shrub and chaparral with beautiful leaves and flower clusters that bloom from May to August.  

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Lemonade Berry is an evergreen shrub that varies widely in size by location (but can grow up to 10 feet tall), but can be identified by its thick, leathery, flat leaves and clusters of small, white to pale pink flowers which become small, red, sticky fruits.

Gather the berries once they are ripe (between the end of August and the end of October) and keep in a non-stick container because they are covered in a gooey, sugary coating. Simple as that!

You can just add the berries to your water to make a lemony drink. Seeping one cup of berries in two cups of hot water will make a strong, lemonade-like beverage as well.  You can also suck on them right after picking.  Just a warning, they are quite sour, like the sourest candy made (AKA Warhead candy) and can make your mouth pucker at the very thought of eating them. If you wish to save the seeds, they can be ground and roasted. 

For the garden:
Lemonade berry is useful for erosion control, as a hedge, and it is fairly fire resistant. It can tolerate from full sun to mostly shaded areas with little water as well and is an appealing evergreen shrub that makes delicious berries.  Some companion plants include: Toyon, Chaparral Mallow, California Sagebrush, Salvia spp., Yucca spp., Buckwheat spp., and various cactus species.  All in all, it can be a great addition to the garden if you have the room for such a large shrub!


The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry