Wild Edible Berries of the Midwest

wild edible berries header with image of a bowl of wild raspberries and blueberries

The wild edible berries covered here are found in the Midwest of the US, since that’s where I live. There are so many others, too, but this will get you going on some great snacking options when hiking and camping.

Edible wild berries are wonderful to add to cereal, yogurt, pancakes and desserts. If you know where to pick and bring containers with you, you can even pick enough for a pie.

Or just pick and enjoy as you go…unless you’re in national parks or state parks. Better check the rules first!

The thing to know if you’ve not picked wild berries before: they’re much smaller—and usually tastier—than their domesticated cousins.

Here’s our list:

wild blueberries on the bush
Wild blueberries


Blueberries grow wild all across the colder parts of North America. These small, compact bushes love sun, love rocky soil, and—we found after hitting the jackpot in a few spots—they seem to love the ashy soil post-forest fire.

Blueberries grow in clusters as you see in the photo above. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as stumbling upon a blueberry patch when hiking or on a portage during a canoe trip!

As we’ve discovered them, we’ve often gone back with baggies or plastic containers so we can pick more than for just eating at the time.

Serious blueberry pickers have a reputation for being very secretive and protective of their favorite spots. So if you question any of these folks, don’t be surprised by their evasive answers!

Depending on how far north you are, blueberries ripen mid-summer into late summer. You know they’re ripe when they’re a nice blue. Unripe berries are whitish to light purple (you can see the difference in the above photo).

NOTE: Not all blue berries are blueberries, so know what to look for. Start with the distinct “crown.” At least in northern Minnesota, we have other blue berries that are toxic!

bunchberry plants with the cluster of red berries
Bright red bunchberries


I’m only including these because they’re edible, as in not toxic. I’ve not eaten them myself because I’ve heard they’re not very tasty. They sure look vibrant on their squat little plants, though! And if you’re ever in a tight spot and need to eat to survive, they’ll help you out.

They have the prettiest little 4-pointed white flower in mid-to-late spring (Go to Minnesota Wildflowers and scroll down to Bunchberry). They grow on 5-6 inch plants in shady woodlands, often in large patches.

wild raspberries


Like blueberries, everyone’s heard of raspberries. These common berries are tangy sweet and just as delicious in pancakes as blueberries are!

They grow on bushes 2-4 feet tall, often very abundantly and with plenty of sun. Since the berries hang from their stalks below the leaves, be sure to lift up the branches to find them all. You’ll know they’re ripe when they’re bright red.

saskatoon berries on a branch, still need ripening
These Saskatoon berries will turn dark purple when they’re ripe

Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon berries (also known as serviceberries and June berries) grow on bushes that can be just a few feet tall up to tree-size, depending on the variety. They seem to like the same areas as blueberries, as we’ve seen them together often in sunny areas. The berries are about the same size as blueberries, too.

They start out red and gradually deepen to dark purple when they’re ripe. Very tasty! Somewhat sweeter than blueberries.

The best way to differentiate it from similar-looking berries is by its crown—very similar to blueberries.

wild strawberry plants with one ripe berry
Wild strawberry


Wild strawberries are a miniature version of their domesticated cousins. Tiny and super flavorful, they make wonderful jam if you can find enough of them!

They grow on tiny 3-leafed plants that are just a few inches tall, and love sun. The berries hang down so they can be hard to spot unless you lift the leaves up. They ripen in mid-to-late spring, earlier than most of the other berries.

a cluster of thimbleberries
Thimbleberries look like raspberries, but the leaves are much different!


Thimbleberries look sort of like raspberries except they grow up above their leaves instead of hanging down on the short stalks. The leaves are broad and large, as seen in the photo above, and look like maple leaves. They’re shady woodland dwellers.

The berries aren’t quite as flavorful as raspberries, nor are they as plentiful on each plant. But they’re easy to spot and grab. They start almost white and deepen to bright red when ripe, in mid-late summer.

wintergreen berries on a couple plants
Wintergreen berries can be seen in the spring, too

Wintergreen Berry

The bright red berries of the tiny wintergreen plant are edible. As its name suggests, the wintergreen’s leaves stay green throughout the winter, and the berries stay on the plant into spring. (I’ve not personally eaten these so can’t vouch for the flavor. If anyone has I’d love your opinion!)

The waxy leaves of this little plant have been used for centuries in tea and medicinally. They grow and spread in wooded areas.

I went camping with a friend just last week—blueberry season in northern Minnesota. So we chose a hike I knew was loaded with bushes, brought along containers for picking and brought along pancake mix.

What a wonderful treat to load up the batter with these delicious berries for our breakfast the next morning!

Nothing like wild blueberry pancakes when camping!

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