Wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) are one of the most abundant of summer’s brambleberries. In fact, they are often listed as an invasive species. Luckily for foragers, they are also delicious
Look for wineberries in summer, usually just after black raspberries stop fruiting and before or at the same time as the blackberry season. They grow in full to partial sunlight or occasionally even partial shade, along roadsides, in parks, and at the edges of fields and clearings.
Wineberry canes can grow as long as 8 feet. Like other brambleberries (plants in the Rubus genus), these canes or stems arch over at their ends and can form dense thickets. Instead of the prickles (often called thorns) that blackberries and raspberries have, wineberries have hairy bristles that are the color of orangutan fur if the plant is growing in full sun, but closer to green if growing in shade.
The 3-parted leaves are toothed, and the upper surface is green but the undersides are white. The 5-petaled flowers are white and less than an inch in diameter with the many stamens characteristic of Rubus and other plants in the Rosaceae plant family. They grow in loose clusters.
Wineberries are compound fruits like raspberries, but orange-red in contrast to red raspberry's red and black raspberries dark purple. Your fingers will get sticky when you pick wineberries – consider that part of the ID.
Rubus phoenicolasius is an introduced Asian plant that spreads so aggressively city park departments assign volunteers to weed it out. Enjoy the delicious fruit, and do not feel even a tiny bit guilty about depriving the birds of the chance to spread the seeds of this invasive species.
Although wineberry's bristly canes aren't as likely to scratch you as blackberry prickles, it's still not a bad idea to wear long pants and sleeves if you know you're going on a major wineberry gathering foray. Pick the fully ripe fruits (if you need to tug, the berry isn’t ripe) and place them in your collection container. Use a container rather than a bag so that the berries don't get smashed in transport.
Wineberries are lovely fresh, but they are also good in preserves and baked goods. Like all brambleberries, wineberries freeze well and make excellent jam and jelly.
The one thing that sounds obvious – making wine from wineberries – is something that I haven't tried yet. If you beat me to it, invite me over to sample some, okay?
Leda Meredith teaches foraging internationally and is the author of several books including The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles and Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can find more of her recipes and food adventures on her blog and videos, and read all of Leda's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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