They may be invasive but wineberries taste waaaay too good to yank up by the roots. Native to Japan, northern China and Korea, wineberries were introduced to North America and Europe in the late 1800s as an ornamental and for the potential to create hybrid raspberries and quickly escaped from cultivation to become a flavorful fugitive.
But I never saw them growing wild here in New York's Hudson Valley until about 15 years ago when a large patch near my family's home in Shokan caught my attention. I'd never seen anything like those jewel-like, red berries. They seemed too dazzling, too showy to be real.
Now I see them everywhere - in the woods around my house, along the side of the road,and in fields. Not so surprising since, like all invasive species, they spread readily -- by seed, by sucker and by rooting the tips of their canes where they touch the ground.
Their flavor is delightful - similar to a raspberry but a little bit tarter and a little bit juicier - somehow it adds up to being even more delicious than a regular raspberry. They are also lightly sticky to the touch, unlike a raspberry's dusky look and feel.
The berries are protected by a hairy, red calyx - a remainder of the flower that blossomed in the spring. As it grows, the calyx opens and peels back until the berry is fully exposed and ready to pick.
There are no poisonous look-alikes in North America, so go ahead and pick some. My advice is to wear long pants and sleeves (there are lots of thorns, ya know), keep an eye out for poison ivy and make sure to check for ticks after you get home.
We went picking yesterday and tramped through tons of poison ivy but it's not a problem - we just stripped down when we got inside, tossed all the clothes in the wash with a generous splash of Tecnu and scrubbed all the skin that'd been exposed with it, too. Between yanking out Japanese barberry (my least favorite invasive), pulling up poison ivy, and picking wineberries, I should really buy stock in Tecnu...
I'd hoped to make something with our small haul (it's really just the beginning of their short season) but ended up giving in to the demands of my hungry children and allowed them to simply devour them on the deck this morning. It was either that or keep tripping over them as they'd been twining themselves around my legs just the way the cat does when I open a can of tuna fish...
But if you get a lot (and/or don't have small children in your house), below are some ideas that you might want to consider. These wild wineberry preserves from Kaela at Local Kitchen have a million yummy uses, this wineberry pie from Abbie at Farmer's Daughter would make a classic dessert, and this wineberry bavarian from 3 Foragers looks really decadent. And, if you imbibe, this wineberry cordial by Ian Knauer on Bon Appetit sounds pretty darn good.
You might also like:
- Wild Blackberry Sorbet with Garden Mint & Lavender
- Out of This World Chocolate Raspberry Tart
- Simple & Delicious Rustic Plum Tart