July 11, 2021

Yavapai County's Wild Fruits & Their Medicinal Uses


What did the first pioneers eat? Basically, whatever they could get their hands on! Fortunately, Yavapai County’s diverse ecosystem includes many fruits that grow in the wild. Here is a listing with pictures and the lore surrounding their medicinal uses:

Arizona Dewberry (Pictured above.)

Similar to a raspberry, dewberries are “sour-sweet (and a bit seedy).” They can be eaten raw, dried or jellied. They contains good amounts of Vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. In days past, the leaves were used to make a tea that was supposedly helpful to the urinary tract. This tea was also used “internally and externally to generally reduce a woman's reproductive tissue irritability.”

Black Cherry

In the wild these tend to be small with a ”hint of bitter.” The pits, stems and leaves should not be consumed. However, in the past, small pieces of the bark were sucked upon to relieve a dry cough.


Smaller than blackberries found at the grocery store, Arizona’s wild blackberries turn dark purple to black. They are sweet and “mildly tart.” Pioneers were happy to make jams and jellies from them and some women would make tea from its leaves to drink during their time of the month. Tea made from the root was used to relieve diarrhea.

Can be found in the pine regions of Yavapai County, especially in range of tall mountains. The berries are blue-black and taste semisweet. When dried, the natural sugars are concentrated and the fruit is sweeter. Even today, Elderberries are used by herbalists; often available in a syrup as a help with cold and flu suffering.

Hollygrape (shrub) or Creeping Hollygrape (vine)
These ripen anywhere from the middle to late summer. They are described as “sweet-tart with a hint of bitter.” The grapes can be eaten fresh or made into preserves. The root of either of these fruits is still utilized by herbalist today for an “array of liver, gastrointestinal, and microbial complaints.”

Manzanita is the Spanish word for “small apples” and relates to the taste of this fruit. However, it is mealy and contains an abundance of seeds. They can be eaten raw, but are best used as a jelly base. Many species of wildlife consider manzanita a real treat—including bears. A tea from its leaves was used in an effort to cure urinary tract infections.

New Mexico Raspberry
Despite the name, New Mexico raspberries are mostly found in Arizona in the higher elevations. Compared to store-bought raspberries, they are disappointing. New Mexico Raspberries are only semisweet, and dry and mealy. Some describe the sweetness as tasting “artificial.” Their best use is as a jelly base. Tea made from the leaves was used “as a urinary and female reproductive astringent.”

Found in the Ponderosa Pine regions, serviceberries ripen in mid to late summer. The fruit turns from green to red and is fully ripe when purple. At this point they become sweet and juicy, although they are filled with seeds. Tea from its leaves is not suitable for drinking, but was used as “a wash for bruises, stings and insect bites.”

Wild (Arizona) Grapes
Arizona Grapes are common throughout the state and can be found in areas of higher hydration, like along creeks, drainages, and riparian areas. Those that do manage to grow in drier areas tend to have fruit that is acrid and can irritate the throat and mouth. Grapes are not known for any medicinal value; (unless, perhaps, it’s made into wine!)

There are several other wild, edible plants in Yavapai County and Arizona. For more information, please see “Wild Edible Plants of Arizona” by Charles W Kane. (ISBN #: 978-0-9982871-3-3); which was the source and inspiration for this article.

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