Keeping mahonia berries

Just discovered Mahonia berries were edible? Extend the joy and learn all the best ways to keep and preserve these delicious, tart, vitamin-packed berries!

The best way to keep these berries is freezing them, but it’s also possible to dry them out. Include them in a whole range of syrups, jams and liquors to savor them all the way to the next season!

Freezing mahonia berries for later processing

Freezing is the best way to preserve your mahonia berries.

  • Rinse the berries out under running water
  • Eliminate any that are dried out and withered. Also remove sticks and leaves.
  • drip-dry them or spread them on a tray or cloth to remove any extra water. Caution, stains cloth, use only something that you won’t regret staining!
  • loosely pack the berries in an airtight plastic container (not glass) or freeze sealable pouches.

If you want to keep the nicest, plumpest berries whole, follow these steps instead of packing them with the others in freeze pouches:

  • spread them on a tray so that they don’t touch or overlap too much.
  • freeze them for a couple hours or overnight.
  • Once they’re frozen, you can bundle them together in a regular freeze pouch. They won’t stick and clump together as much since they’re already frozen.
  • When you need to unfreeze them, spread them out on a tray again for them to thaw without breaking.

Freezing is the only way to keep mahonia berries for use in pies, jams, and ice creams later on.

Dehydrating mahonia berries

Dehydrated mahonia berries also keep for a long time.

It’s hard to remove the seeds or pips, though. It’s possible, but will take a long time to slice the berries open to take them out.

  • Simply accept that they’re going to be part of the crunch at every bite!
  • Keep a few seeds if you wish to sow and grow new plants!

Rinse berries to get rid of twigs, bugs and dirt.

With a dehydrator

Here are the steps to dry mahonia berries out:

  • If patient, slit open and remove seeds from within each berry.
  • Easiest is to use a dehydrator. Spread the berries evenly on the tray, don’t overload.
  • Dry at a temp of 130-140°F (55-60°C) for at least 12 hours.

If you don’t have a dehydrator

  • Spread the berries on a tray not far from a heat source (fireplace, wood stove or warm radiator).
  • Set a low-speed fan to send warm air around the berries.
  • Check on them every couple hours to turn them over.
  • Ready when they’ve shriveled up and become chewy.

A simple device such as a dehumidifier for the home can also dry the berries out:

  • Best slit the berries open for this method, since it’s the least effective means to dry them out.
  • Spread the half-berries on a sieve, only one layer thick.
  • Find a way to hold the sieve about half-a-foot (10-15cm) above the vent.
  • Let dry for around two-three days. Remember to empty the water tank when full.
  • Don’t spill them or you’ll stain the carpet or woodwork!

In the oven

Usually this isn’t the most cost-effective solution, but it works.

  • Open the door to the oven, and set it on low (130°F or 55°C).
  • Spread the berries on a tray, so that they’re touching but only the occasional berry sits up over other berries.
  • If your oven has a fan function that circulates air, turn it on.
  • With the door opened up a crack, let the heat do its thing and dry the berries out. Moist air needs to be let out of the oven, hence the crack.
  • Open the door to shuffle the berries around every couple hours.
  • This can take up to 8 hours. Either start early, or interrupt it overnight so you don’t create a fire hazard.

Read also:

Smart tip about preserving mahonia berries

Mahonia berry has a truly distinctive taste. It’s a real treat when you add a dollop of mahonia berry syrup in a glass of white wine or champagne to make delicious mahonia kir!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Berries ready for drying by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work