|Dark purple irises edge the herb garden on the driveway side|
Tina’s parents came to the farm this weekend for a slightly belated celebration of their 55 years of marriage. Way to go Ute and Werner!! Although it rained both days, we still spent a bit of time outside to see the grapevines, the berries and the garden. We had a lot of fun family time inside, and celebrated with champagne and cake:
One of the “must have” bramble varieties for a budding winery has to be the wineberry – Rubus phoenicolasius, also called Japanese Wineberry, or Wine Raspberry (see Wikipeadia for more info) It is a native species in China, Japan and Korea and was introduced to North America in the late 19th century for breeding new hybrid raspberry varieties. These berries are very tasty, with a more intense raspberry flavor than raspberries themselves. Wineberries are sweet but also tart, and the higher level of acidity is what makes them so good for jams and for wine.
Wineberries now grow wild in parts of the United States, primarily in the Appalachian Mountains – and they certainly grow around our region! They are commonly found along the edges of fields and roadsides, but are not widely cultivated. Actually, wineberries are considered an invasive weed in many states, including Pennsylvania.There is a great blog post on the Cumerland County Extension website about wineberries.
What makes this type of bramble so unique is the way that the berries ripen inside a calyx – a remainder of the flower. The calyx folds back as the fruit reaches maturity and a shiny, slightly sticky and very tasty berry emerges.
Despite the fact that these berries are not widely cultivates, we dug some out this weekend and planted them in a new row, next to a row of red raspberries. We’ll see how cultivation affects these berries. Hoping that we can contain them in a neat row and that they bear a lot of fruit. Can’t wait to make some jam and maybe some wine as well.
This was a good weekend for spring clean-up work. We had someone come in and remove all the accumulated metal “stuff”. All that is left to move now is the old silo. We also took time to clean up around all the sheds and the barn and we moved more things out of the barn (like the row boat and trailer).
Over the past couple of weeks, Zach has been getting rather good at using the grader attachment for the tractor. He graded a section of the old “barnyard” that desperately needed cleaned up; and he started moving piles of dirt around in what will someday be the parking lot below the barn.
While Zach was moving dirt, Tina found a spot of wineberry plants, which we dug out and moved to the garden before the tractor would destroy them.
A few weeks ago we “erased” the small, upper blackberry patch which we had started next to the vegetable garden a few years ago. We never paid too much attention to this patch, and therefore it never produced many berries. Within one afternoon, all traces of the trellis and the brambles were gone. The old rows were plowed and disked, and orange marker paint clearly showed where the new plantings were to go.
The reason for all this destruction was a new order of Niagara grapes, an American white variety of the Vitis labrusca species. Similar to Concord grapes, with a typical “grapey, musky” flavor profile. We ordered 150 plants to give these grapes a try. We planted them the same way as the Traminettes last weekend, with cardboard and mulch, to keep the weeds at bay. They have been growing rather vigorously and within a month, healthy, happy grape plants are visible.