Yesterday I rode past our local library, and I noticed some trees that had little berries. I recognized these from my wild edible plant book. I quickly rode my bike back home to get my book for a positive identification, and upon inspecting the trees closely, I figured out that they definitely are hackberry trees.
This tree was once widely used as a food source, and indeed, the berries are enjoyable. It’s a pretty dry berry that is more like a nut than a berry. There is a thin sugary coating surrounding a pit. This pit is medium hard, usually, and upon being bitten open, a multitude of tiny little seeds spill out.
The tree itself is a little bit larger than your average mature dogwood tree, and its grey bark is deeply grooved. The leaves are ovate with faintly to strongly toothed margins.
If you eat the berries whole, it tastes like a mixture between a fig and some sort of nut. The combination is very nice. The berries are also very filling as they have high levels of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and they are one of the few wild edible plants from which you can get an (almost) full meal.
Unfortunately, I found these berries a little too late this fall, so the pits were usually too hard to bite open, but now that I know where they are, I’ll be heading back next year to try to get a better harvest.
If you know of a tree around you that makes red-brown berries, you should check it out to see if it’s a hackberry! Definitely a keeper.