June and July are berry-picking months. But you don’t have to drive to a local orchard to get them — just look for the tall canes in fence rows, along the side of the highway, edging a sunny field. There is an abundance of fruit just waiting for you.
Around mid-June you will begin to see black raspberries. A ripe black raspberry is deep black-purple and will easily come off the bush. After you pick it, a “cone” will be left behind on the bush, so the center of the berry is hollow (blackberries will ripen in August and when picked do not have this cone or hollow in the center).
A delicious snack — put them in a bowl, drizzle a little honey over them, a dollop of half & half, and maybe a spritz of whipped cream. My breakfast berries were enhanced with apple honey, a real treat from Herb Everhart’s Eversweet Apiaries in Kearneysville. I’d never had apple honey before — a very sweet taste and as pale as honeysuckle nectar.
Both black raspberries and wineberries are in the genus Rubus, members of Rosaceae, the Rose family.
Right around the Fourth of July, just as the black raspberries have finished, the wineberries will begin to appear.
Rubus phoenicolasius is a native to northern China, Japan, and Korea.
It was introduced a little more than a century ago as breeding stock for new Rubus cultivars but escaped from cultivation. Because it is a vigorous grower, it is now considered an invasive species in some eastern states, including West Virginia. Like the black raspberry, when ripe it easily comes off the cane, leaving a little cone behind on the bush. The perfectly ripe berries seem to glow with ruby light. Because they are so plentiful and easily picked, children delight in berry-gathering expeditions. The canes do have hair-like thorns, but they are not very sharp or prickly.
Put the fruit of your labor in a blender with a little vanilla ice cream, any selection of fruit juices, blueberries, strawberries — use your imagination — and you will have a wonderful “smoothie.” For a colorful Fourth of July salad, I mix them with nectarines and/or peaches and blueberries and add a sauce of honey dissolved in orange juice. The perfect ending to a summer supper.
Do your part to reduce a West Virginia invasive plant species; eat wineberries!