It is Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) time! In this house, we love berries of all sorts and if there is a chance to pick them, we love them even more! Wineberries are the non-native invasive that just about everyone turns a blind eye to. Their ruby, semi-tart fruits are prolific and even the most fervent of invasive species eradicators will just idle on by these canes, pretending not to notice. I will not tell a lie. I, too, willfully disregarded these non-natives in my backyard. Whenever I see a new cane pop up, I just let it be and I rip out some Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), instead. It is easy to commit purposeful oversights when we will be rewarded with delicious berries.
When wineberries reach their full ripeness, they turn a deep ruby, almost purple color. I am not known for patience and I usually start eating them when they become “STOP Sign” red. I have eaten them at full ripeness, and they are a bit sweeter. However, that would require 2 more weeks more of ripening time and I just can’t wait that long! My husband and I decided it would be fun to take the boys berry-picking after work, so we picked them up from school, stopped for a slice of pizza and then headed out into the Sourlands!
My Big Dude picked the first berry of the hike.
Kerplink!My husband showed Littlest which berries were ripe for picking.I love the pincer grasp that young children use when picking berries. Their careful and slow reach and those little fingers pinching is adorable. “Hurry up! There are more berries up here!” my Big Dude shouted. He was our scout and he pointed out all of the big and best patches.Berry baskets for the win! Two handed picking at its best.Berry picking was traded in for some rock climbing.We took a well-deserved break at the top of the mountain and enjoyed watching the sun as it began to set over the Delaware river.This was about two-thirds of our harvest. We picked a bunch more on our way down to our car. I combined our family-picked berries with about 4 more cups of berries which I had picked from the bushes outside of my office. I cooked them all down with 1.5 cups of water.I bought a jelly strainer and strained out all of the juices that I could.Cooking the preserves, adding sugar and pectin and sterilizing all of my equipment! I have never canned anything before (or made preserves for that matter!) so I boiled everything a lot longer than I needed to because I wanted to make sure I killed all the bacteria and fungi.
My boys worked hard making labels for our preserves. My Big Dude knew the most important part of “Wineberry Preserves”.
My preserves came out a little runny, but they tasted great! We are going to make picking wineberries and turning them into preserves a family tradition. It was so nice to go out as a family and even though the canning part was a little tedious, I love the fact that we did it together.