AppearanceIt is a deciduous shrub growing up to 4 m high. The leaves are small oval, 2–5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, with a serrated margin; they are borne in clusters of 2-5 together, subtended by a three-branched spine 3–8 mm long. The flowers are yellow, 4–6 mm across, produced on 3–6 cm long panicles in late spring. The fruit is an oblong red berry 7–10 mm long and 3–5 mm broad, ripening in late summer or autumn; they are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.
UsesThe berries are edible and rich in vitamin C, though with a very sharp flavour; the thorny shrubs make harvesting them difficult, so in most places, they are not widely consumed. They are an important food for many small birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings.
A widely available Russian candy called Барбарис is made using extract from the berries, which are pictured on the wrapper.
The ''Zereshk'' or ''sereshk'' is the Persian name for the dried fruit of ''Berberis vulgaris'', which is widely cultivated in Iran. Iran is the largest producer of ''zereshk'' and saffron in the world. ''Zereshk'' and saffron are produced on the same land and the harvest is at the same time.
The South Khorasan province in Iran is the main area of ''zereshk'' and saffron production in the world, especially around Birjand and Qaen. About 85% of production is in Qaen and about 15% in Birjand. There is evidence of cultivation of seedless barberry in South Khorasan two hundred years ago.
A garden of ''zereshk'' is called ''zereshk-estan''.
Zereshk is widely used in cooking, imparting a tart flavor to chicken dishes. It is usually cooked with rice, called ''zereshk polo'', and provides a nice meal with chicken. ''Zereshk'' jam, ''zereshk'' juice, and ''zereshk'' fruit rolls are also produced in Iran.
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