American Beautyberry

(Callicarpa americana L.)

These beautiful berries are growing all around the 40 Acre Woods. They taste a bit bland to me but I still can’t help but eat a handful while taking a walk. The stunning magenta colors of these berries must be full of antioxidants and vitamins, at least that is what I tell myself while munching on a few mealy tasteless berries. I plan to make some of the American Beautyberry jelly this year.

The USDA tell us that the roots, leaves and branches of the American Beautyberry were used by the Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole and other Native American tribes for various medicinal purposes. The roots, leaves and branches were made into a decoction that was used in sweat baths to treat both malarial fevers and rheumatism. The boiled plant parts were poured into a big pan that was placed near the patient inside a sweathouse. A similar decoction of the roots was used to treat dizziness and stomachaches. The American Beautyberry roots were boiled with roots from Blackberries to make an infusion to treat dysentery. The roots and berries were boiled and drunk to treat colic. The bark from the stems and roots was used to treat itchy skin. A tea from the root bark was taken to treat urine retention or “urine stopped-up sickness.”

The fruits of American beautyberry are an important food source for many species of birds including bobwhite quails, mockingbirds, robins, towhees, and brown thrashers. Animals that eat the fruit include armadillo, raccoon, squirrel, fox, opossum, and white-tailed deer. The long-lasting fruits provide food for birds and animals well into the winter months.

Most discussion on the American Beautyberry eventually leads to the wonderful jelly made from the berries. The following jelly recipe is from “Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles” by Richard Deuerling and Peggy Lantz.

Beautyberry Jelly

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

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