About two weeks ago my friend Anna, who lives in Western Virginia, posted this on her Facebook status:
“Dear wineberries: I love you, I love you, I love you. I wish I bought more of you.”
Now I had never heard of a wineberry, so I asked her what on earth they were. She pointed me to a Wikipedia entry about them, and my response was: “Oh, you mean that big thicket of mysterious berries that are growing the in middle of my yard?”
Turns out, I had wineberries right under my nose and had no idea. It seems that lots of people mistake them for wild raspberries, though they actually aren’t native. Have you seen these growing and thought they were raspberries?
You aren’t alone! Apparently they are native to China, Japan, and Korea and were imported as a fruit/ornamental crop and, like many imported things, turned feral. It certainly grows vigorously in our little patch, and in parts of Virginia is runs entirely rampant.
I’ve been watching these little fellas grow for a while, as they start life wrapped tightly in a tiny, hairy husk and they only open when they are just about ripe. Quite unusual and striking. They also have a slightly sticky sap on them, which actually helps when you are picking them, but builds up on your fingers. It is very easy to wipe off, though.
Here’s a just-opening bunch:
Held side by side to a conventional raspberry, they really do look quite different. They have a squat, domed shape to them unlike the pointed tip of a raspberry. I was going to take a picture of them next to each other, but by the time I walked over to my camera with the three raspberries I was able to dig out of the thick foliage, they had somehow fallen into my mouth. Whoops!
The most striking difference is the color. Where raspberries are dull and opaque, wineberries practically sparkle. They look like rubies. This picture was taken at dusk with a heavily clouded sky, and you can still see how gloriously they shine:
And of course, they taste amazing. I think I like them more than raspberries. They have a more subtle flavor- on the sweet side, but you can pick them a little early for tartness. They are amazingly juicy. Eating a handful of them is like taking a sip of water. They dissolve in your mouth leaving behind a lingering sweetness that can’t be beat.
I’m having a love affair with these berries- I think they may have replaced blackberries in my heart. You may already be eating them in your own yard (or know of a patch on the side of the road), but if you aren’t, they are probably worth cultivating. I know now that I can never live without these berries again! From what I can tell they have no pests, no diseases, and no drawbacks (if you can keep on top of their natural ramblyness). Oh, and they are heavy producers.
I love my farm!