The Middle East can be considered as the Spice Capital of the world, and it is no surprise that there would still be undiscovered gems hidden amongst these extensive arrays of spices. In this article, we will be introducing you to the red rubies of Iran’s treasure trove of spices: berberis vulgaris or popularly known as Barberry.
What is Berberis Vulgaris?
Hailed as the little red jewels of Iranian cuisine, barberry has been a staple in Iranian households. Zereshk is the Persian name for dried barberry and Iran is the largest producer of barberries in the world. The name might make barberries seem exotic and rare, but it was once widespread all over the world, namely in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Middle East. However, since the berries can house wheat rust, it was detrimental to grow them alongside other crops.
The berberis vulgaris or barberry is characterised by its distinct ruby red colour that resembles jewels. These berries boast a sweet and citrusy aroma that brings a refreshing take to dishes and desserts. It also packs an explosive mix of tart, citrusy, zesty, sour, and tangy notes. These barberries are often used in place of pomegranates or lemons when they aren’t in season, but their delicious currant-like flavour is nowhere near inferior to that of the citrus line up. They are also a key ingredient in Persian wedding fares since the sour barberries serve as a symbolic reminder that married life isn’t always all sweet and cotton candy fluff.
How to Store Barberries
Typically, barberries are sold in their dried form since it lengthens its shelf-life and preserves its flavour. At Saffron & More, we make sure that our barberries are imported regularly to ensure its freshness. In the case that your barberries might have been sitting in your pantry or fridge for quite some time, a light soaking or simmering will reconstitute their plumpness and help release their tang, sweet, citrusy flavours in your recipes. To further maintain its freshness and vibrancy, you should keep your barberries in an airtight container in the fridge at less than 5°C.
How to cook with barberries
The tangy, citrusy notes of barberries make it a versatile berry that can be incorporated in cocktails and sparkling water, used as garnish on cakes and pancakes, added to pilaffs and frittatas, stewed over roasted chicken, and combined with glazes, jellies, or jams. While it is established that barberries are an important ingredient in Iranian cuisine, they are also used to make other delicacies. For instance, English cooks value barberries and use them in making jams and jellies due to its high pectin content. It also pairs well with various nuts like pistachio, almond and walnut. Barberries also go well with feta and yoghurt. It adds a zesty taste once added as stuffing to chicken or tossed with quinoa. Aside from this, barberries also can be used to make sorbets and syrups. They are also great for adding sour notes to the rub for lamb or pork.