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The Barberry or Thorny-box tree is the spice or berry of a hardy perennial shrub.

Barberries taste fruity yet tart and astringent, but the juice when diluted is refreshing. In many ways, barberries are reminiscent of cranberries and redcurrants in flavour.

Barberries are 10 mm (½ inch) long, dried dark red berries, looking a bit like a small currant. Barberries rehydrate fairly quickly.

Barberries are found in Afghan and Iranian cuisine in rice dishes, perhaps on top of pilaff, or in jellies to accompany rich game or mutton. A quick fry in oil will release the flavour of dried barberries, which can then be sprinkled over rice dishes or cooled and added to salads.

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465435989.