Keith D. – F&B Director & Forager Extraordinaire!
It is early July and the hot weather is right around the corner. It’s the time of year that foraging kicks into high gear. Lots of things in the woods are ready or about ready to be picked. And one of the things I love to do with my sons is pick berries, which in Maryland, is usually blackberries and wineberries. This has been a tradition since I was a young boy, when my grandfather would take me out on small trips to the country in Western Pennsylvania to look for and pick berries. I have warm memories of the time we spent on hot summer days, and have wanted to pass down the same to my sons.
It’s not hard to figure out when the time is right to go and forage for berries. They love to grow along edges of wooded areas and roads, and so are highly visible if you know what to look for. So what are Wineberries, and what do you look for? Wineberries, or Japanese Wineberry, is an Asian species of raspberry in the rose family, scientific name Rubus phoenicolasius, meaning “raspberry with purple hairs”.(which actually look red/purple)The canes can grow up to 9 feet, and are covered in gland-tipped red hairs, along with short spines. The leaves are comprised of 3 roundish leaflets, with toothed margins, green above and white underneath, with a woolly feel. It’s because of these distinct characteristics that make it easily to be identified. Wineberries color from a green/yellow to and orange/red to a bright and shiny scarlet red when mature, usually from late June to early July. I find that black raspberries ripen first, then Wineberries, and lastly blackberries.
The berry is protected by a calyx, a remainder of a flower that is also covered with the distinctive red hairs, and exudes tiny droplets of a sticky dew/fluid. As the berry ripens, the calyx folds back exposing the fruit. When picked, a yellow/oranges tip is left on the cane. It is a vigorous grower, crowding out native species, and thus is considered an invasive weed in many states. It grows wild primarily around the Appalachian Mountains, in moist soils in sun and light shade along forests and field edges and roadways.
And why do I just LOVE Wineberries? They taste very much like a red raspberry, but juicer and bit more tart. And just about everything you can do with raspberries, you can do with Wineberries, and they make great pie and jelly. They are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, minerals and fiber. The berries are fragile, and last fresh only a few days, but really freeze well. The canes do have thorns, but I find these berries are the easiest to pick. When at their peak, a whole cluster of berries will ripen at one time, making it possible to pick a whole handful in just one effort.
What a great way to spend some quality time with your child, and you then get the bonus of eating them later! As I have said previously, make sure you identity fully what your picking before eating anything. Wine berries, to me anyway, are one of the things that are easily identifiable and really, really are delicious!
My youngest son and I picked these berries in half an hour along a country roadside.
Notice that there are also blackberries and even a few black raspberries in the bowl.