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Japanese Wineberries

This fourth of July we harvested a ton of wild berries in Westchester county.

We were foragers for one day!

They were much yummier than anything I've had from the grocery store in recent memory (that's the difference freshness makes) and I used about half the berries to make an unorthodox red white & blue crème brûlée.

20120810-182949.jpg Coconut crème brûlée - minus the real cream & before the part where you burn it and have to put it in the fridge forever

Since then. I've spent the entire summer wanting to dig some up and bring them home to Brooklyn.

I've also spent the entire summer thinking that these were raspberries. Not true!

After a long, fruitless (ha!) Google search for the correct species, I finally found a comprehensive list of all New York plant species at www.newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu. After filtering through the list to narrow it down to the Rubus family (which includes blackberries, raspberries, and other brambles) in Westchester, I hit upon a match with Rubus phoenicolasius- Japanese wineberry!

Rubus phoenicolasius

Rubus phoenicolasius is distinctive because of the fuzzy calyx that surround the berry before it ripens.  Native raspberries and blackberries look nothing like phoenicolasius.

It turns out that Japanese wineberry is actually considered an invasive plant in Westchester. That's great! I won't suffer from any guilt if I steal one from the roadside. On the other hand, that's terrible! I hate the idea of encouraging an invasive species in its hostile takeover the world.

But they're so damn tasty, and kind of cool, because I've never heard of them, and as long as further research indicates that they won't do any harm to my potted "Chester" thornless blackberry, don't be surprised if you see a crazy chick with two big pots of wild brambles on the MetroNorth next weekend.