Ditch Berries

“Who can guess what kind of berry this is? Hint: It is NOT a Blackberry.”

This is the question I posed to everyone on Facebook and Twitter. I had NO idea there were so many types of berries it could have been! Some of the guesses were: Boysenberry, Huckleberry, Black Raspberry, Mulberry, Olallieberry, and my favorite guess: a collection of grapes held together by a giant?

Who knew there were so many options! It is actually a Dewberry! But don’t feel bad, Jorge had no idea what they were either. I first spotted the Dewberry vines growing one afternoon when Jorge and I were walking Brody down the running/biking trail that runs directly behind our house (for those in Jacksonville, it is the trail that runs parallel to Hwy 17). We had been walking for a while when I spotted all the flowers blooming. I ran over and excitedly explained to Jorge all about Dewberries. I told him how they are like a Blackberry, but smaller and sweeter. I told him how they grow earlier in the season than Blackberries and that you will never see them in the grocery store. I even told him that growing up, back in Texas, they grew like wild fire and every Spring my family and I would pick bucket loads of them. We would make pies, cobblers, icecream, and smoothies with them. And of course we would also eat them straight out of the bucket. As I am telling Jorge this, he is looking at me like I am insane. So finally I stop babbling and say “What?!”ย  He looks at me and says “Why the hell would you eat a berry growing in a ditch?”. And from there, the name Ditch Berries were born.

I have been watching these berries grow through all the stages and taking photos along the way. I wanted to share with all of you, so you can know what to look for! They tend to grow along the side of the road, along fences, in bushes, and in pastures. They tend to grow in the Southern states and until moving to Jacksonville I had not seen them in Florida.

When looking for Dewberry vines, the first thing that you will see are the bright white flowers. The vines will be full of them and they are hard to miss. But within a week or so, the flowers will die and fall off. For a while it will look like nothing is happening…and then if you look closely you will see hard little green berries starting to form.

About 3 weeks after the flowers have fallen off, the berries should start to turn bright red. Do not be confused and think they are a raspberry like the guy who saw me taking photos of them! He waited till I started to walk away and immediately popped one in his mouth. He made the sourest face and spit the berry back out.

About another week later, all the Dewberries will start turning black. But DON’T pick them yet! Give them one more week to sweeten on the vine! Trust me, I spent a week tasting one every day until I found they were just right. When picking Dewberries, be very careful. They do have thorns and the vines also provide a great place for snakes and spiders to live. So wear closed toe shoes and be mindful of where you step. And one last thing, make sure you wash your berries before you eat them…unless your Brody who kept biting them off the vines before I could stop him. So far he is still alive…so maybe if you can’t wait, go ahead and try a few. ๐Ÿ™‚

I spent an hour picking berries today and came home with over 4 pounds! They truly are one of my favorite parts of Spring and I am so thrilled to have found them growing right outside my back door. I am sure you will see a few recipes highlighting Dewberries soon!

Freezing: Like any berry, Dewberries are great frozen for later use. I would suggest freezing your berries on cookie sheets in single layers over night before placing them in a zip lock bag. And I heard recently from my Mom that you should not rinse your berries if you are going to freeze them. It supposedly makes them mushy when you freeze them. So instead, freeze your berries without rinsing, then rinse them before using them.