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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dewberries are coming!

Ripening dewberries about 1 week from picking
I just picked my first ripe dewberry - just one - after spotting its shiny deep purple in the vines that run along the side of my driveway.

Dewberries are close relatives to wild blackberries and they are plentiful around here. Unlike their cousins, dewberries are almost always found on long vines trailing along the ground in mostly sunny spots at the edge of open spaces.

Dewberries are one of my favorite local wild berries, second only to my favorite nasty invasive species, the autumn olive. Over the nine years we've lived in Charlestown, I've figured out most of the places where the dewberries are so I can avoid mowing or ripping them out when I do yard clean-up.

Dewberries hang out with poison ivy - Watch out!
Dewberries frequently mingle with poison ivy, so watch out and make sure you wear gloves to protect from poison ivy and the thorns on the fruit vines themselves. Take note of their pretty white flowers in the spring time so you can go back later and pick the ripe berries.

The berries are a lot softer than blackberries and easily bruised. However, the berries are not just great eaten raw, but are good fruits for jams and sauces.

I've read that the leaves can be made into a tea, but I haven't tried that yet.

Like most berries, dewberries are good for you. They are low-calorie and loaded with antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E and K), plus minerals and fiber.

We live on heavily forested land right on the northside of Route One. Despite the deep, tall tree canopy, I've been amazed at how many types of wild edibles I have found. The first of four different varieties of blueberries are ripening now. We have one very prolific variety of blueberry that grows on three foot tall bushes deep in the dark kettlehole behind our house - those are the last of the blueberries to ripen in late summer.

The wild blackberries are about two weeks or so away from being ready to pick. In late August, I'll be after the wild grapes.

Then finally in October, the autumn olive berries will come in as a bumper crop. I'll talk more about those when we get closer to season.

But for now, look down, look up, look in unlikely places, and you may be surprised at what you find in our fields and forests.

Author: Will Collette