Friday, 4 September 2015

The Trouble With Japanese Wineberries

A friend was recently bemoaning his lack of wineberries. I understood his disappointment. While my Japanese wineberry has always produced snackable quantities of fruit to sustain me as I ramble around the kitchen garden, berries have never made it into the kitchen where they might be arranged in a dish and adorned with double cream, or even cooked into some glorious wineberry pudding.


The solution to this dilemma came during my summer holiday to Croatia. My absence from our plot gave the Japanese wineberry an opportunity to build up a decent quantity of fruit for me to harvest. Clearly this is a problem with wineberries: it is impossible to walk past the plant without grazing on the ripe fruits. I look forward to hearing if my friend was met by a wineberry glut when he returned from his summer holiday. If so, I hope that he, like me, celebrated by adding some to his Sunday pud. Below is a pudding I thought I would never eat: apple and wineberry crumble, made possible by my absence from the garden.  


On a more serious note (as if the creation of my Sunday pud isn't serious enough), Japanese wineberries have placed me painfully on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, I am all for a plant which looks good in winter and offers protection to wildlife and food to me; on the other hand, Japanese wineberry is invasive in some areas of the world. 


Actually, I am perched on the horns of two wineberry-related dilemmas (this is truly an uncomfortable post). Invasiveness is one; the other is that while I garden for wildlife, I don't like my food being nibbled by anyone other than me. Joey not sharing food in Friends* springs to mind (which is unsurprising as my kids watched 236 episodes this summer... well, it did rain... a lot). If birds eat the fruit in the kitchen garden, I get upset. The developing fruit on a Japanese wineberry is protected by a hairy calyx, which makes eating the fruit trickier for birds, which means more berries for me. The birds here have plenty to eat: there are the plants I grow for them, plus the seed in the feeders, the chicken food when the chickens aren't looking, not forgetting the hedgerows, the windfalls in the orchard and some carefully selected weeds. The birds will not go hungry, but I do feel a bit mean about not wanting to share my food with them. 

Finches feeding on a thistle
(so why do I still feel bad about not sharing my wineberries?)
The good news for gardeners in our rainy isles is that I have found no reference anywhere to Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) being invasive in the UK. At around 2 metres, it is not a small plant, but it can be trained artfully against a wall or fence, or left free-standing with its stems arching hither and thither. Either way, it rewards us with year round interest: pretty white-pink starry flowers in early summer are followed by glistening burgundy berries in August. The leaves are bright green with white undersides and the orange-red bristly stems seem to glow in the low winter sunlight.



In my humble opinion, wineberries taste pretty similar to raspberries, but with a bit more zing. They are easier to maintain than raspberries (my wineberry hasn't walked anywhere, whereas the raspberries are taking great strides across the kitchen garden). Like summer fruiting raspberries, wineberries fruit on one-year-old stems, so cut the old brown stems down to the base and leave the young pink-orange ones for next season. If you are thinking of planting one, now is a good time. Designwise, try to site it where the stems will catch the winter sun, but where it won't dry out. Of course, like most fruits, it has its pests. The most formidable being the grazing gardener. The remedy is a gardener's holiday; about a week should do it. 

* Joey's stance on sharing food... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdCfZYgTjqY

48 comments:

  1. They do sound delightful! I really want some for the front garden & your pud sounds divine xx

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  2. We had Japanese wineberries against the barn when children were little. I never had the chance to pick dishes full of them, the children and their friends were fond of them and ate them all.

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    1. That sums up the trouble with wineberries perfectly!

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  3. I have never tasted them. But they look gorgeous. Groetjes, Hetty

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    1. Hi Hetty - they are beautiful and I never see any for sale. If I didn't grow them, I would have to steal some off my friend's plant!

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  4. I've never tasted a wineberry but they're a gorgeous colour. I think I must know every line in Friends, I've seen every episode at least fifty times. Eleanor watches episode after episode. I actually used to like it myself, now I can't wait to turn the blooming thing off as soon as she leaves the room.

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    1. Oh the same here. I can remember to looking forward to watching the latest episode and now I have seen/heard every episode so many times. Friends has been the soundtrack to my summer.

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  5. I've never tasted a wineberry but they're a gorgeous colour. I think I must know every line in Friends, I've seen every episode at least fifty times. Eleanor watches episode after episode. I actually used to like it myself, now I can't wait to turn the blooming thing off as soon as she leaves the room.

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  6. Very entertaining post, and I learned of yet another berry to add to the bird/deer banquet. I only get to taste when I spot a random berry they have overlooked.

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    1. I love the idea of a bird banquet. I may steal that!

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  7. I have never tasted this variety of raspberries, I will be planting raspberries in my new garden once I have cleared a space for it, perhaps this will be a suitable one. Height is no problem, but how wide will each plant get? And can they tolerate just as much shade as normal raspberries can, I have a rather shady corner in mind for growing this, with sun until noon and shade the rest of the day.

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    1. They grow to about 2 metres up and across. They will tolerate some shade - mine isn't in sun in the morning, but it is doing fine.

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  8. I've never heard of these berries and since we just ventured into the field of raspberry growing and love them, except for the part where indeed they do take great big strides across the lawn.

    I might have to go and visit another nursery in search of these lovelies...a real hardship but a gardeners got to do...right?

    Jen

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    1. I hope that you enjoy the nursery visit as much as is possible given the hardship involved, and that the plants jump into your shopping trolley and save you the terrible job of actually having to choose between them.

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  9. I've never heard of these berries and since we just ventured into the field of raspberry growing and love them, except for the part where indeed they do take great big strides across the lawn.

    I might have to go and visit another nursery in search of these lovelies...a real hardship but a gardeners got to do...right?

    Jen

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  10. I've never grown wineberries so this was so interesting! In fact, I haven't even tasted one!
    I get the not sharing food thing too. It sounds like there is plenty of food for your wildlife...I'd just net them, then you and the birds won't get them and you will have plenty for more delicious puds!xxx

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    1. The trouble with netting is that I don't like to look at it, so I leave netting the fruit until the last minute, which is usually after the birds have sussed out that the fruit is ready to eat. I didn't get a single redcurrant this year!

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  11. Interesting! I've never heard of them before, and never seen them for sale here in the US, but maybe because of invasiveness. They look delicious!

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    1. Some of the Eastern States have a real problem with its invasiveness, so I would guess that is why you might not see it for sale.

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  12. We planted a Japanese wineberry a few years ago and it is only this year that it has decided to make any decent growth. Still only a handful of berries and very small handful at that

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    1. Fingers crossed for next year! See if any fruits make it to the kitchen! My guess is that they won't if you're measuring in handfuls. ;-)

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  13. I love our wineberries – like you say, a kind of zingy raspberry!

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  14. You should feel no guilt - people need to eat, too. If they didn't, how could they take care of the garden?

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  15. I haven't tasted them before but as lover of all edible berries I'm very curious now and it certainly sounds delightful!

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    1. The problem is that you really need to grow them (or know someone who grows them) to be able to eat them. They are quite fragile, so they wouldn't stack well in shops.... in any case, what are the chances that the people picking them would be able to resist eating them all?

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  16. The grazing gardener, I think I have one of those but they have earned it!

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    1. As Jason so rightly points out, the gardener needs fuel!

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  17. Hello Sara ... I have never heard of these berries ... perhaps they are not cold hardy where I am 5b .. they do look delicious and I don't blame you for not wanting to share with the birds especially since there is so much other food to snack on for them there. Love the look of the pudding !
    I think my anise hyssop is exceptional .. I have never heard of one reaching the age as mine has .. I thought 10 years was "WOW!" ... I do love the smell and the pollinators love it to bits as well. Good luck with yours, I am sure it will age well in that happy environment !!
    Take care
    Joy : )

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    1. Hello Joy - Japanese Wineberry is hardy to zone 5 in the UK and has a USDA Hardiness zone rating of 4-8. I am not sure how that all relates to Canadian ratings! I hope my Anise hyssop lives as long as yours has. It's a fabulous plant!

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  18. I've never seen wineberries here but they sound delish! I don't think I'd want to share, either.

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    1. They are one of my favourite berries. It's strange that there are problems with invasiveness in some areas of the world, yet so few people have tasted them.

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  19. I' ve never tried them but you have really convinced me. I must get some. i always had the idea that they were very invasive.

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    1. They are very invasive in some areas of the world. Some gardeners have restrictions on planting them as they are particularly troublesome in their part of the globe. In the UK I can find no reference to there being any problems with them.

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  20. Wineberries are new to me -- I don't think they grow here. We don't have a long enough growing season for raspberries anyway -- plus they are invasive. But your fruit are beautiful and the pud sounds delicious. P. x

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    1. It is one of the more beautiful berry-bearing plants, but if it is invasive where you live, you mustn't plant one. The pud was made all the more delicious by the addition of wineberries!

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  21. Hi Sarah, there's a long border that's going to have soft fruit planted in it and Japanese Wineberry was one of the plants that I wasn't so sure about, but after reading your post, it sounds like I'm going to need to make room for three plants - and get some gauntlets, looking at those prickles!

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    1. Hi Sunil, I wouldn't run my bare hand along those stems! Thankfully the fruits stand proud of the stems, so I have never injured myself picking them. They are easy enough to propagate by layering, so one plant would make 3 pretty quickly.

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  22. Where HAVE I been for the last 60 years ? I have never heard of wineberries, but after your post, think I should certainly track one down and try it, Sarah!

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    1. You must! Then you can eat them without guilt since you've missed out on them for a decade or so.

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  23. I agree with what you say about raspberries, I find them popping up all over the place on my allotment, whereas the wineberry stays put nicely. I had no idea they could be invasive. I had lots of berries this year, although they're quite small and fiddly to pick. A job for the littlest boy to help with.

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    1. They are fiddly to pick - then again, with the exception of strawberries, I find all berries a little fiddly to harvest. I suspect that is another reason why we eat them before they get to the kitchen... we have earned those wineberries!

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  24. Came across your wineberry article , and I just wanted to say I have had a wineberry bush for some years and I haven't found it to be invasive at all, rather very easy to control.

    Lovely harvest this year and I made jam with a 50-50 mix of wineberries and raspberries. It came out with a wonderful flavour and a beautiful colour, a brighter red than pure raspberry jam - highly recommend it!

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  25. I live in Putnam County, New York and this year I started to trim back vines and weeds that were invading our invasive wineberry/dewberry bushes and, in the process, uncovered a slew of berries in several different stands around the property. I may have harvested several quarts by now. I made a key lime pie and topped them with the berries and yesterday, Kay made a dewberry pie and used a bunch of them, but I still have a pound or two left in the fridge and more to harvest today.

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