What are berry anthocyanins


by Stefanie Goldscheider

The red, purple and blue berries from the garden, field and forest are always appetizing and tasty. They are also full of valuable ingredients. The healing powers of blueberries, elderberries and lingonberries, but also of wine, are deeply rooted in folk medicine in Europe; their application has a long tradition.

Berries in red and blue - the anthocyanins

The natural coloring agents in berries belong to the large group of polyphenols or tannins. Many plant phenols are known to be health-promoting substances. Anthocyanins, the color pigments in blue and red fruits, play a major role in this. According to scientific studies, protective effects against degenerative diseases of the cardiovascular system, the joints, the eyes, the skin or the kidneys are ascribed to them. This is based on their antioxidant potential, i.e. the ability to bind free radicals in the body. Free radicals, which are created by UV, X-ray and radioactive radiation, by chemical substances and in many metabolic reactions in the body, attack the body cells and cause diseases in various organs in addition to the natural aging process.

Free radicals are also thought to be the cause of cancer. Anthocyanins are sold in concentrated form under the name OPC (oligomeric procyanidins) as a dietary supplement.

Berries are pure health

Berries are also characterized by other healthy ingredients. Some of them contain a lot of pectin, which is beneficial and beneficial for the stomach and intestines. A high level of vitamin C is a well-known health factor that cannot be overestimated. The many fruit acids and fructose refresh and invigorate and contribute to the taste.


Pectin serves as a gelling agent and is a vegan alternative to gelatine. Unlike gelatine, pectin is a carbohydrate (better: polysaccharide). Pectins are indigestible for humans, so they have no calories. Still, pectin is useful and healthy. Pectin cares for the intestinal mucosa, ensures a physiologically healthy low pH value in the intestine, binds heavy metals and ensures their elimination. Food rich in pectin increases the feeling of satiety and lowers the cholesterol level. Pectin is used to make jams and fruit jellies, but also for vegan sweets. Pectin is a dietary fiber in our organism. Pectin is vegetable, soluble in water and highly swellable. Pectins are components of cell walls, especially in fruits and berries. The peel of citrus fruits and apple pomace, from which pectin is also produced on an industrial scale, are particularly rich in pectin.


Some particularly valuable native wild berries are:

- blueberry

- elderberry

- lingonberry

just like the American one

- Cranberry


The bilberry or blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilis) is an undemanding dwarf shrub that grows up to 50 cm in height and is native to light coniferous forests, heaths and moors in Central and Northern Europe. Blueberry bushes cover the entire forest floor in some places. The small berries with blue, often white frosted peel and purple flesh ripen from July to September. They dye hands and teeth an intense dark blue.
The bilberry can be confused with the somewhat larger, less tasty bogberry (V. uliginosum), whose fruit juice is light and non-coloring.
The blueberry V. corymbosum, which comes from North America and is up to 2 m high, is grown for cultivation. Their yield is higher, their berries are larger and more durable during transport than wild blueberries. However, the flesh of the cultivated blueberry is not blue or black but colorless and has a less distinctive taste. The sales goods for cakes, juice and fresh consumption come partly from wild collection in Eastern Europe and our neighboring countries, partly from culture.

The fruits of the blueberry have it all when it comes to healthy ingredients. They contain fruit acids, invert sugar and pectins, the valuable anthocyanins and flavonoids, including quercetin, anti-inflammatory tannins and the amino acid tryptophan, which helps you fall asleep.
Blueberry fruits are even used medicinally. They are used against diarrhea and improve visual performance at night. Outwardly, they counteract inflammation and help heal wounds.


The black elder (Sambucus nigra) is a shrub that has been known and widely used for thousands of years and was also sacred to the Germanic peoples. His dialect name Holler is reminiscent of Frau Holle. To this day, both the white flower umbels and the black-red, juicy stone fruits are used. Elderberry is a fast-growing crop and is widespread throughout Eurasia on the edges of forests, banks, dirt roads, barns, embankments and embankments.
The large, approx. 3 to 7 m high shrub bears plenty of intensely fragrant flowers in May and June, which are processed into punch, syrup, tea or biscuits. From August the fruit umbels ripen and can be harvested. The fruits of the black elder are suitable for the production of very tasty compotes, juices, jams or liqueurs. They are also used as an intense colorant in the food industry. The purple natural dye is sambucyanine.
The black elder can be confused with the red or grape elder (Sambucus racemosa), which is slightly poisonous and whose fruits are bright red. There is also confusion with the only 0.5 to 1.5 m high dwarf elder (S. ebulus), which bears bad-tasting and poisonous black fruits. However, you should avoid eating the raw fruits for all species, as they can cause nausea. This poisonous effect disappears when heated.
For industrial processing, elderberries from wild harvest in Poland, but also cultivated cultivars from Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany are used.
Elder flowers, which contain up to 1.5% rutin, are approved as a cold remedy for dry coughs and bronchitis. Fruits are also used in folk medicine in the same way. They contain many minerals and vitamins and are used as tonic for febrile illnesses.


The lingonberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea (picture left), also called cranberry, is related to the bilberry, is like it a heather family (Ericaceae) and has very few demands on the location. It still grows sporadically in local low and high mountain ranges, but especially in northern Europe and Asia as well as in Greenland and Alaska. They can be found in raised bogs, swamps and in coniferous forests with acidic soil.
The evergreen dwarf shrub reaches a maximum height of 30 cm. The small, bright red fruits ripen from August. From the wild cranberries that are harvested for sale, some cultivars have now been selected for commercial cultivation.


Our lingonberry is closely related to the red berry-bearing cranberry (V. oxycoccos) and the American cranberry (right picture) (Vaccinium macrocarpon). Cranberries have larger fruits about one centimeter in diameter. Unlike cranberries, they are grown over a large area and flooded with water for harvest. The floating cranberries can be harvested mechanically with the help of sophisticated cultivation and harvesting technology.

Cranberries and lingonberries can be used equally for sauces and compotes, with game dishes or in cakes. The local lingonberry tastes a bit more intense tart and sour than the cranberry, which is due to the higher proportion of peel. On the other hand, the cranberry is a good snack fruit raw or candied because of the better fruit size. Cranberries are also becoming increasingly popular in juice and smoothies, which they naturally give a beautiful red color.

The ingredients of lingonberries and cranberries are similar. Both contain a lot of pectin, fruit acids, phenols and flavonoids, as well as vitamin A. The cranberry contains more iron and vitamin C than the lingonberry. The juice of the berries is used successfully against bladder problems and urinary tract infections due to its antiviral, bactericidal and fungicidal active ingredients.

Read on in Part 2: Wild Fruit

Hedges - plants

Aroniapflanzen.de has a large range of wild fruits and varieties directly from the nursery. Here, container goods and, during the planting period, bare-root plants can also be ordered directly. Aroniapflanzen.de

also offers a plant catalog with detailed descriptions of the varieties.
Garden plants and the plant catalog can be ordered online: www.aroniapflanzen.de.

Book tips

Wild fruits - botany - cultivation - recipes by Thuri Maag and Erika Lüscher
Fona Verlag, Lenzburg, 2009, 153 pages, hardback, 70 color photos, € 19.90.
Portraits of 26 wild fruits, with tips on how to collect them, how to grow them in your own garden and lots of delicious recipes!
Order the book from Amazon

Easter fairy and amazon - forgotten berry varieties rediscovered
Brigitte Bartha-Pichler, Martin Frei, Bernd Kajtna, Markus Zuber
AT-Verlag, Baden and Munich, 2006, 160 pages, numerous color photos, bound with a dust jacket, € 23.90.
Cultural history, 100 variety portraits and practical tips. more...

Order the book from Amazon

Berry Kitchen - Delicacies from the garden, forest and meadow by Edith Beckmann (Ed.)
Hädecke Verlag 2003, 125 pages, linen cover with dust jacket, 79 photos; € 19.90.
The beautifully presented book consists of two parts: In the first part, 20 different, sometimes rather unknown, berry types are presented like a wanted poster. You can learn the most important things about botany, news about varieties and breeds, information on health benefits and culture tips for your own cultivation. In the second part there are refined and tasty, savory and sweet recipes for hot and cold days.
Order the book from Amazon

Also read:

The persimmon or sharon fruit. New fruit for our gardens

Wild fruits and wild fruit hedges

Planting time for berry bushes

Goji - the berries of the wolfberry
Physalis - colorful and healthy
Aronia the chokeberry
The heart-strengthening, circulation-stimulating hawthorn
Vitality and vascular protection with pomegranate
Sea buckthorn fruits and sea buckthorn oil
Elaeagnus multiflora - the many-flowered olive willow

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