Harvesting Wine Berries

(As featured in the July 2011 issue of Practically Seeking)

The $12 Tincture Press

The Wine Berries are in! Hooray!
Wine Berry, (Rubus Phoenicolasius) is an invasive from Asia that has vitrually taken over many areas in the Northeast. I have a mixed relationship with these berries because, while they out-compete many local plants, the are soooo delectable!

A variety of red raspberry these are arguably my favorite of the "Rubus" family. It hurts my soul to take a weed whacker to them, but they simply have to be controlled.

Fortunately, because of their growth characteristics, the ripened translucent fruits are (in my humble opinion) easier to harvest than any other raspberry. And since they are a spreading invasive that must be contained you can use harvesting methods that make collection fast and easy.
You need about 4 cups of berries to make a batch of jam, and using this method should take no more than a mere 30 minutes or so to harvest that amount.

Here's what I did…

 

Step-by-step Instructions on How to Gather the Goodness:

  1. You'll need a good pair of leather gloves, (wine berries still have plenty of thorns to get past!) a gathering basket (one that hangs about waist high is perfect), and a pair of bypass pruners.
  2. What you need

  3. The berries grow in clusters and are fully ripe when they reach a semi-translucent red, sort of like looking through a glass of red wine. (Wonder if that's where they got the name?) I prefer them to be just a bit under-ripe.
  4. Berries grow in clusters Translucent red when ripe

  5. Find a cluster where most or all of the berries are ripe, grab the cluster by the stem and give it a nip with the pruners.
  6. Find a ripe cluster Snip off the entire cluster

  7. Hold the cluster over your gathering basket and simply brush the berries into the basket with a free finger. Ripe berries will easily fall off the vine and into your basket.
  8. Hold cluster over basket Brush berries in Should easily fall off

  9. Continue along your berry bushes, cutting any interfering non-berry-bearing vines out of your way and making sure that you look under the top layer of vines for the many berry-bearing ones hiding underneath.
  10. Continue all through patch Cut away non-berry canes

  11. Once your basket is full, take you berries indoors and carefully wash them off, removing any twigs, stems or other debris. Go easy, as too much pressure or agitation can bruise or smush your berries.
  12. Fill your basket Rinse berries Carefully wash

  13. Spread your berries out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer.
  14. Place plant material in bowl Place first bowl in press

  15. Berries freeze quickly, so check back in an hour or two and, once they are all frozen, put them in a tupperware container or ziplock freezer bag and store frozen until ready to use.
  16. Tighten down the outer bolts evenly Tighten with wrench if necessary

  17. The advantage to freezing the berries first? Once berry season is over and you are longing for that fresh-kissed taste of summer again, you can open up your tupperware or freezer bag and pull out as many or as few berries as you wish! No big clumps of frozen, berry-flavored mush. Every berry is as red and beautiful and tasty as it was the day it was picked. Delicious!
  18. Individually frozen berries

    Remember, this plant is a NON-Native Invasive. 
    Harsh gathering techniques will not cause extinction of this plant.
    Left alone this plant will take over an area to the detriment of the native species'.
    So grab your gloves and your pruners, get out there, and do some good for your local environment.
    (And be rewarded with the best of berries!)

Until next time, enjoy the bounty of plants,
and Have Fun!

Want to learn more ways to tastily preserve these and other delicious summer treats?
Come on out to our Making Jams, Jellies & Preserves
workshop on August 12!