Jaimie Sweetman is Head Gardener of the Edible Forest located on the Yarra Valley Estate in Dixons Creek. There are regular tours of the Edible Forest, often led by Jaimie – read more and book your place on a future tour.
There are around 70 species of in the Mahonia genus. All have berries which are edible but extremely sour.
Some mahonias, such as Mahonia aquifolium, have the common name of Oregon grape and originated in North America. The Native Americans would probably not have eaten these berries as they didn’t have access to sugar but now they can make a tasty dessert by mashing the berries in a bowl and adding sugar and milk. At the Edible Forest, we dehydrate our berries and put them in tea blends as they are really high in vitamin C.
The mahonia in the photos below is Mahonia napaulensis.
The yellow flower spikes appear in May and early June and their colour they really does stand out in Winter. The berries are ripe in early spring (i.e. now). The best thing about mahonias is the unusual time that they it flower and fruit when not much else is flowering or fruiting.
Mahonia are very spiky. So, if you want a living fence that has the potential to keep out deer (or unwanted guests), they are potentially your solution.
Some species reach up to three metres in height but can be contained to a smaller size by pruning.