Curious what the best tasting (to humans) berries produced on shrubs. I already have lots of wild raspberries, highbush cranberry, and wild plum growing. I'd like to add to the diversity of shrubs, mostly in the understory if an existing low-lying woodland. But I'm also interested in things requiring sun that could be in a clearing or used in a hedgerow. Being partial to shrubs native to the Midwestern US, I'm particularly interested in the comparison of:
If anybody has experience with the taste of these, especially on an relative basis, I'd appreciate it. I'm open to non-natives, but I'd like to start with this list. And I'm more concerned about the taste, raw, such as in a foraging situation. We may make jams and jellies, too, but I want berries that taste good right off the plant.
Serviceberries aka saskatoon berries or amelanchiers are great tasting right off the tree. They are not as sweet as raspberries but really good tasting. I have seen bushes of them growing in full sun and I am not sure how they do in partial shade. You might also want to consider the non-native nitrogen fixing sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). The fruits are not amazing off the tree but make great juice and you have the added nitrogen fixing benefit.
Nanking cherries are so-so. Edible, for sure, but better processed than straight off the bush. I also think goumi berries (and other eleagnus) are exceptionally nice (taste good, prolific, fix nitrogen, etc.), but they don't fit in with being natives to your region.
Elderberries are another good "edge"/understory species.
Serviceberry, a.k.a. Juneberry are very good! There's a tiny organic farm a few miles from me that makes yogurt, and their Juneberry flavor is fan-tas-ti-co! Great taste and texture. They must have a shorter variety, probably a Saskatoon cultivar that grows shorter and wider and more prolific, as the native Junies around here have most of their berries way up in the birdy zone where I can't reach 'em! Also a favorite of Black Bears, so the larger wild trees often have claw marks and broken branches from Bears climbing up for a feast.
I remember Black chokecherry (aronia) well because it is remarkably bad tasting by itself. I just learned from wikipedia that the red is more palatable, but still best for jams and such. Mulberries can be shrubby and the one dwarf maxes at 8' but i've read its not the best mulberry. A so-so mulberry might be better raw than even a nanking. Oregon grapes (not a grape) i've had weren't very good raw. Thimbleberries are very nice.
I like Salal, but I can't seem to find any definitive info on how it would do in the mid-west. It's berries are vaguely fuzzy, and taste like a slightly blander blueberry. It does fantasticly in the shade out here in the PNW.
By " winterberry" do you mean wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)? It usually refers to a heavily fruiting (on females), deciduous holly that is helpful for birds but toxic to people. The leaves of some hollies (especially yaupon, not sure about winterberry) can be brewed into a caffeinated tea, but all have toxic (for humans) fruit (unless male bushes, then no fruit of course). If you do want tea and are north of the laurel wilt area, I suggest Lindera benzoin (spicebush). The oily fruit of its females was supposedly used instead of allspice, but reminds me more of black pepper. All above ground parts of either gender make a spicy tea, and you might attract some beautiful butterflies (spicebush and tiger swallowtails). No caffeine though.
I highly recommend buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum, related R. aureum is probably worth trial too). In the middle Midwest (Ohio, Illinois, etc), domesticated cultivars of the native black raspberry (& its hybrid with the mainly European reds, purple raspberry) are very good (& ornamental in winter, though the flowers and fall color disappoint). However they are prickly and all brambles are pioneer species--you need to prune them properly (blacks tip layer so need to be pinched when their canes elongate; red raspberries and many blackberries need root barriers) or they will become weeds roving across your landscape where not shaded out by the advancing forest of taller trees.
A clump of pawpaws (Asimina triloba) will eventually make a fine focal point (most reliable in zone 5--9). I think chokeberries are great landscape shrubs, but their fruit is so tannic that it must be cooked with sugar, and probably mixed with other fruit. I don't make wine, but all that astringency might be an asset for that. If you are willing to mess with Aronia, and don't have black knot problems, why not try chokecherries (Prunus virginiana)? It makes good syrups, pemmican, and preserves, is ornamental, and great for butterflies and birds. "Garretson" is hard to find but supposedly stays below 8', making hand harvesting much easier (though you need a pollinator).
Nannyberry has decent flavor, but the drupelet is mostly the inedible seed. Highbush cranberry might give you more food.
Near native: Hybrid plums (usually a mix of Asian & American species), beach plums (Prunus maritima, native to the east coast, and often short)
I agree with serviceberry out of those named. I grow some and they are great tasting, just make sure you don't buy a ornamental type variety like was mentioned earlier, some types are dry and have no taste.