Tag Archives: callicarpa americana

Beautyberry Bug Juice and “Bad Sugar” Syrup


I decided to try two other possible uses for Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) before I finished up house sitting for my in-laws in sunny Florida.

Bug repellent:  An old folk remedy, USDA has had positive results in their research of beautyberry as an insect repellent (I will post the link once the government shutdown has run it’s course and the website is back up).

I wanted to poach some of my mother-in-law’s bamboo for some camp kitchen projects before I left, so I thought there would be no better time to test out Beautyberry Bug Juice on the rabid Florida mosquitos. I raided her liquor cabinet, liberated a bottle of vodka, and boiled up some leaves.

Before heading out to the bamboo grove, I slathered up the left side of my body with the juice (t-shirt & shorts) and I am very happy with the results.

Protected area = 1 mosquito bite      Unprotected area = 11 bites

That is good enough to warrant further trials in my book!

Syrup: Don’t waste your time. We wanted to try some syrup out on our ice cream and used the standard 2:1 ratio of sugar to juice. In the words of my step-daughter “it tastes like bad sugar”. I guess the pectin really adds to the jelly. Not to worry, we salvaged dessert with some jelly on the ice cream.


Five days in Florida is over. We got to forage and sample some sea grapes and a couple palm species. As I was hauling a backpack with 30 jars of beautyberry jelly, some bamboo bowls, and a 24″ section of bamboo back to the mountains, I chuckled to myself thinking about my mother-in-law, who I affectionately call Granny, returning home.

Why is my kitchen so sticky?”… “Who cut my bamboo down?”…. and “Where is my VODKA??”

Thanks Granny!! See you at Christmas : – )


“Beauty is in the eye of the Berry-Holder”


When I visit  the in-laws, I can hang out inside the indoor flea market called their house or get outside and explore. I chose the latter and found they had a nice crop of beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) in the woodline behind their house. So I convinced my step-daughter that making jelly is much cooler than homework, not a hard sell. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince her to let me eat the armadillo that is burrowing under her pool.

We followed the recipe from “Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles” by Richard Deuerling and Peggy Lantz.

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boil and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

We followed the instructions and made five 8 ounce jars and had enough infusion to make another batch today.


We were all surprised at the results, as the raw berries are not anything to write home about and they didn’t smell that great while cooking. However, as advertised, the jelly is “exceptional” and I found myself staking out the neighborhood bushes on my run this afternoon. Over the next couple days, I am going to commandeer the kitchen for my makeshift jelly factory and test out the bug dope recipe as well.