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The Elusive Berry


Turns out we have wineberries. In abundance! I had never even heard of wineberries (turns out spellcheck hasn’t heard of wineberries either, as every time I type the word, I am offered “winterize” or “wineries” instead), let alone sampled one. Glenn didn’t know about the wineberry profusion either. Apparently, mistaking the bramble-y sprout for an invasive (turns out, it sort of is…more on that later), he had triumphantly cut it back each season, subsequently curtailing any berry profusion lying in wait.

This past Spring, though, we decided to have a Permaculture appraisal done of our property. We did this with the hope of assessing ways in which we might optimize our land (which includes 12 rural acres outside of Asheville, N.C.), while treading lightly on it. Our Permaculture specialist, Chuck, pointed out the fledging wineberries on the property tour, immediately identifying them. Since we’d not yet encountered said berries, we were somewhat suspect, but held out hope considering that Chuck is the expert and we’ve been trigger happy with the pruning shears.

Remember the “patience” phrase from last entry? The
ever-so-slightly-creepy-yet-totally-beneficial-as-an-adult (sorry mom, but it’s true) saying my mom had my brother and I recite often? The wineberries are a perfect example of that. Taking Chuck at his word, we curbed the urge to prune, and sure enough, last month, we got wineberries.

Rubus Phoenicolasius is a species of the genus Rubus, which also includes blackberries and raspberries. Native to Japan, China and Korea, wineberries are a classic example of one man’s flower being another man’s weed. Considered an invasive on account of its nature to form dense thickets over large areas, choking out and displacing native plants in the process, horticultural types find wineberries to be a pest. I personally find them to be delicious. Often mistaken for raspberries, wineberries are darker in color when fully ripe and pack a wallop of sour barely hinted at in raspberries.


Fortunately, on my property, the wineberries have concentrated themselves in a contained area, rubbing elbows comfortably with a patch of assorted ferns. Fortunately for my chickens, the thicket lies en route to the chicken coop and the past few weeks have found a handful of just-picked wineberries in their morning meal. This is cause for much squawking and rushing to be first at the berries. Uno, thusly named owing to her insistence at having first dibs at mealtime, raises her squawk pitch several decibel levels when the berries are presented. I’m pretty certain I received a “beak lashing” (I
cannot get enough lame chicken humor!) one morning last week when I showed up with only the feed, no berries to offer. Uno would have none of that, and, whipped owner that I am, I managed to scrounge around in another thicket, risking close encounters of the reptilian kind (snakes-totally deserving of boldface and italics-love berries and wait beneath the canes waiting for over-ripe berries to drop) to procure the coveted berries.

Wineberries are also apparently a hit at dinner parties. We brought a pint of them, along with a bottle of wine, to dinner at a friend’s house recently. The berries were placed on the cheese board and devoured in under 8 minutes, while the wine took up to a half hour to be opened. When people choose berry juice over hooch, you know you have a winner.

I’ll end this like an Aesop fable: The moral of the story is, be careful not to cut back what might grow into a nourishing and vibrant gift. Just remember to watch out for snakes at your feet.

One Response to The Elusive Berry

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Ashley,
    I have been enjoying your blog. Thought I’d let you know the crabapples are ripe. Have your canning materials ready? Let me know when you’d like to come picking!!
    Love, Jan