We live in the city limits on a .6 acre lot. I consider myself lucky, because although its not totally flat, we really have a fantastic backyard. Our house sits close to the road, leaving most of the lot for backyard space. It slopes down from the house for about 30 yards before it gets kinda brushy and woody. Our property goes right into a wooded area that seems like a dense forest when the leaves are on. (When they are off, you can see the road on the other side, not that far away). Since we moved there a few years back, I’ve tried (mostly in vain) to coax a few more feet of grassy yard out of the brush and ivy each year. Where the grass stops and the brushy part begins is a thick tangle of English ivy, poison ivy and weird and sprawling vines I can’t even identify. I’m very slowly making progress. The English ivy is disappearing, as we try to cut it back and dig up as much as we can in the spring and fall. The poison ivy is proving to be more stubborn.
Last year about this time, one evening, I had walked down to the edge of the grass, like I do a lot after I water my garden or empty my countertop composter, and imagine the possibilities of this tangle of vines and brush. I’d love to have some beehives down there. And, I imagine a few fruit trees or space for more gardening. But on this particular evening last year. Little red berries growing from canes that looked like raspberries. I’d never noticed them before. I had the Hubs climb into the ivy patch and pick some so I could see them up close (I am severely allergic to poison ivy). Wild raspberries were growing in the brush at the bottom end of our lot! Yippee!! I had him pick the rest of what was on the vine, which was about two cups. We ate them fresh with yogurt.
Last winter, I pruned the canes back and raked away as much ivy as I could from around them, anticipating an even bigger harvest this year–maybe enough to make a cobbler. I babied those canes and waited for the blooms to appear this spring.
But after doing some research on the internet (for this blog post, no less), I have no doubt that its not raspberries that I have on my lot, its wineberries.
Wineberries are a variety of raspberry, actually, native to east Asia. It was introduced in the United States in 1890 as an alternative to raspberries, and is sometimes used in cultivating hybrid raspberries. However, they’ve become naturalized, and can be found throughout the eastern United States in woody shady areas. It is also considered an invasive species, and may not be planted in some states.
No worries, though. Wineberries taste a lot like raspberries, only slightly more tart. They can be substituted in recipes easily. I just need to keep an eye on these canes and make sure they don’t start to spread and choke out what’s around them… Although, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to choke out some poison ivy with an edible plant.