Last Chance Foods: Summer Wineberries

Wineberries: They look like tiny raspberries and you likely won’t find them at even the most well-stocked farmers' markets. Instead, these cousins to the raspberry can be found on a trip through the woods — or even through a city park.

Ava Chin (pictured below holding wineberries), who writes the Urban Forager column for The New York Times, explains that she’s even seen wineberries growing along commuter rail tracks.

“You can find them generally along roadsides, parks, park lands, off the sides of meadows,” she said. “They like moist soil and they like a lot of light.” 

The plants are very distinctive in appearance, and the berries grow out of a hairy, intimidating looking shell.

“They are a rather dangerous looking berry,” said Chin. “When you approach them, you’ll see that the fruit is surrounded by these thorny, sticky, reddish hairs that go all the way down to the stem.”

She added that the red fuzz made wineberries easily distinguishable from raspberries and black raspberries. 

“Wildman” Steve Brill has a warning, though.

“Wineberries are very, very dangerous,” he said. “There are reports of people who ate them who died of happiness — that’s how good they taste.”

In reality, there are no poisonous wineberry lookalikes that would make foraging for the berries hazardous. Ava Chin

“I think they taste like a cross between a raspberry meeting a navel orange — like if you think of a blood orange and add some more raspberry punch to it, that’s the wineberry,” said Chin.

She added that freezing the berries was a good way to enjoy them past their relatively short summer season.

The presence of wineberries in the United States was a happy accident of sorts. The berry is native to Asia, and was originally brought over for its decorative qualities and because of its relation to raspberry plants. While many people consider wineberries an invasive species, Brill said wineberries were low on the list.

“The new science with invasiveness is showing that not all invasives are created equal, and some of them [like wineberries] pose just a minor annoyance and don’t really take over ecosystems,” he said.

Of course, this invasive plant also has an obvious and tasty benefit.

“The wineberries are basically are peaking,” said Chin. “I would advise anyone to grab their baskets and go out to hunt for them, because they’ll be leaving us soon.”

For those who are successful in their hunt, try Chin’s Wineberry Vinaigrette, below.

“Urban Forager” Wineberry Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup wild wineberries
  • 2 T champagne/apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • ½ t honey
  • ½ cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Crush wineberries in a bowl with a hand masher. Set aside.
2. Mix vinegar, mustard, and honey until mustard and honey are completely dissolved.
3. Wisk in a steady stream of olive oil. Add salt & pepper.
4. Fold in wineberries to mixture. Use immediately.