January can seem such a drab time of year. Much of what there was to look forward to: autumn leaves as the seasons change; halloween dress up; fireworks and festive bingeing has now passed. January has arrived and seems scarily quiet, bleak and lacking in spectacle.
I am trying this year to enjoy this calm and quiet that January brings, and what better way to do this than take a moment and reflect on some of the unsung little fruits that the winter months give us: berries!
Berry producing plants can provide us with colour in perhaps the saddest gardening month of the year, but more importantly these fruits are essential for birds and other animals (such as mice), as they struggle through the cold and hungry winter.
Interestingly birds will give preferential treatment to ready to eat berries (much as we might do with fruit) and will return to berry bushes later in the winter when they are either ripened or it is necessary to eat. You will often find lots of red berries on many an Ilex (Holly) tree around December, hence the association with the festive season. Come late January and February, most of these berries will have been consumed.
I have put together a list of berries for you to spot in January. It might be a dark and cold month, but colour and fruit can still be found once you start looking for it.
1. Rowan berries
2. Mahonia berries
3. Ilex (Holly) berries
4. Pyracantha berries
5. Hawthorn berries
N.B. remember to always check if certain berries/fruits are poisonous/toxic for human consumption if you are foraging for yourself! The Woodland Trust has some good articles to consult on winter foraging.