WINEBERRY SEASON IS HERE!
Wineberries are one of my favorite foraging berries because of their abundance where I live and how quickly you can pick a huge bowlful.
What can be better than foraging for free, organic, delicious fruit?
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HOW TO IDENTIFY WINEBERRIES
Wineberry thickets can be identified easily and even while driving in the car by the reddish coloration of the cane, unique flower bunches, and calyxes. The easiest way to identify wineberries is before they ripen. The immature berry is enclosed in a hairy leaf-like structure called a calyx which grows in clusters. Wineberry cane grows as long as 8 feet in full, partial and even shade. It is covered with reddish spiky hairs and thorns. The foliage has three leaflets with toothed edges and a silvery-white underside.
WHERE DO YOU FIND WINEBERRIES?
Since wineberries are so abundant where I live, I just assumed that they grew throughout the United States. However, after doing some research, I discovered wineberries grow mostly in the Eastern United States from Maine south to Georgia and west to Michigan and Tennessee. They also are found in eastern Canada.
Wineberries are found along roadsides, in parks and at the edges of fields. My daughter recently discovered them in her backyard.
Wineberries are hollow in the center like raspberries.
It is considered an invasive plant so it will be interesting if in the future it continues to spread westerly across the United States.
THE ORIGIN OF WINEBERRIES
Wineberries are native to Japan and Eastern Asia. They were introduced into the United States for breeding stock with raspberries. According to articles I have read, it is still used today by berry breeders.
WHEN ARE WINEBERRIES RIPE?
Wineberries ripen in the summer after the black and red raspberries. I live in the mid-Atlantic section of the country and this year our wineberries began to ripen around the 4th of July and continued to ripen over a few weeks thereafter. So once they begin to ripen, you should go picking wineberries every few days.
The protective hairy, red calyx opens and exposes a berry. The wineberry starts out a white color, then turns orange and is ready to pick when red. A wineberry is ripe when it can be pulled off the plant easily (you shouldn't have to tug to pick it).
Usually, the first berry to ripen is in the center of the cluster.
Another interesting characteristic of wineberries is your finger will get sticky when you pick them.
WHAT TO WEAR WHEN PICKING WINEBERRIES
Since wineberry thickets can be dense with thorny (prickly hairy) branches, I always wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants. If you don't, you will get scratches all over your arms and legs.
In July the weather can be very hot and humid, so I go picking very early in the morning; usually between 6 and 10.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH WINEBERRIES
Wineberries are lovely fresh with a sweet-tart flavor and do not have as many seeds are raspberries. You can pop them in your mouth and eat them, add them to cereal, and stir them into yogurt. I bet wineberry ice cream would taste really good.
They can be used in baked goods recipes that call for raspberries such as muffins, cobblers, pies, and tarts.
They make excellent jams and jelly.
In addition, as the name suggests, you can make wine with them.
If you can't eat or use them right away, put them into the freezer for future use.
HOW TO FREEZE WINEBERRIES
After picking, wash the wineberries by gently placing them in a large bowl filled with cold water. Then, carefully lift handfuls out the water and place them in a strainer to drain. When drained, spread the wineberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet or a large baking pan. Pop them in the freezer and freeze until hard. Then, transfer the berries to a Tupperware container or ziplock freezer bag. Start foraging for this abundant, delicious fruit where you live.
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