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?!”  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. :-)

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.

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27 Responses to “Ditch Berries”

  1. 1

    mom — May 4, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    I am so excited! Please save some for me and PLEASE!!!!! Make me a pie!
    Oh YUM!!!!!

    • Jessica replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 3:00 am

      I will make sure and freeze you a big bag! Especially since Jorge won’t be getting any! :-)

      Love you!

  2. 2

    Jennifer — May 4, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    Those look tasty!! I had every intention of taking a walk along that path while we were there the past couple weeks but didn’t get around to it. :) We *might* be coming up again Monday-Tuesday of next week. If we do, we’ll have to go berry-picking!

    • Jessica replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 3:01 am

      It is a wonderful biking/running path. It goes the whole length of the island. And if you walk South on it you reach a really nice park that is towards the end of the island. Hope you are having a great week back in South Florida Jenn! :-)

  3. 3

    Tasha — May 4, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

    I totally remember these from my childhood. We picked them and ate them right there and then- and I remember them being tart usually, so I’m sure they weren’t ripe enough. Glad to know now that they were indeed safe to eat.

    • Jessica replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 3:02 am

      Ha! Yes they were indeed safe to eat! We used to eat them straight off the vines too growing up…but one year we got sick doing that and figured we should probably have washed them first. 😉

  4. 4

    ErinsFoodFiles — May 4, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    I love raspberries & blackberries. So I know I’d love a Dewberry! YUM!

    • Jessica replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 3:03 am

      ….maybe I will bring some with me to Blogher! Eeeek! I am so excited to have a girls weekend in Atlanta combined with BlogHer Food. It is going to be a blast!

  5. 5

    Nelly Rodriguez — May 4, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    all around culinary school we had these but I never had a clue what they were! thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 3:04 am

      Girl! You should go pay a trip back to school then and pick some of the berries! Lol! :-) They are such a treat and are only available right now!

  6. 6

    Zeiss conquest — May 5, 2011 @ 6:15 am

    I had no idea there were so many types of berries either! The only types I know of are raspberries and blueberries. Thanks for opening my eyes and thanks for the pictures.

  7. 7

    thomas sabo charm carriers — May 5, 2011 @ 6:44 am

    I had no idea there were so many types of berries either! The only types I know of are raspberries and blueberries. Thanks for opening my eyes and thanks for the pictures.

  8. 8

    cbuffy — May 5, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    My son and I just found a HUGE patch of them in a park in Malabar, FL. We are east of Orlando, so they are making their way south….. And they are YUMMY! Thanks for telling me what they really are.

  9. 9

    Chris Pedersen — May 5, 2011 @ 11:30 am

    We have “ditch” berries where we live (Northern California). They are blackberries–growing wild everywhere. Yummmm!

  10. 10

    natalie (the sweets life) — May 5, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    I’ve never even heard of these…pretty sure I’d love them, haven’t met a berry yet that I don’t :)

  11. 11

    Carrie @ poet in the pantry — May 5, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    I have these growing in my back yard, actually, along a retaining wall. The kids discovered them last year. Never noticed them the 7 years prior but all the sudden, there they were! Amazing find when you do come across them. Thanks for the tutorial!

  12. 12

    Kim @ Feed Me, Seymour — May 5, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

    I’ve never heard of dewberries before! I absolutely love the progression, that’s so fun! I can’t wait to see what you do with these. I’m sure they’ll be delish!!!

  13. 13

    Kristin @ FoodFash — May 5, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    I haven’t been berry picking since I was a wee one – how fun!!

  14. 14

    Paula — May 6, 2011 @ 12:53 am

    Jessica! It is so cool that you photographed the maturation of these berries. LOL at the fella who ate what he thought was a raspberry. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  15. 15

    The Teacher Cooks — May 6, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    Really nice post! Can’t wait to see what you are making with all these ditch berries.

  16. 16

    Rice Kernel — May 8, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

    I love the progresion! What beautiful, plump berries – jealous I haven’t seen them in our neck of the woods. Looking forward to your berry recipes to come!

  17. 17

    Shawnda — May 8, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    Interesting! I’ve always called anything that looks like that “blackberries.” They grew wild along our fence line growing up.

  18. 18

    Anna Johnston — May 9, 2011 @ 6:26 am

    Never heard of these little beauties. Cant wait to hear your berry recipes. I always forget to use them, the berries. I must, in fact you’ve inspired me! :)

  19. 19

    Rachel @ The Avid Appetite — May 9, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    I’ve never head of Dewberries, but they look absolutely wonderful! Kudos to you for braving snakes and spiders for these berries :) Not sure I’d have the same tenacity…

  20. 20

    Jaida — May 10, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    We actually had Dewberries at one of our houses when I was little, and I LOVED them!! We used to pick them and eat them with milk & sugar…so good! The black ones were usually pretty sweet, the red more sour, and the green would make you pucker up like nobody’s business!! My mouth is watering now just thinking about them!!

  21. 21

    Delia — May 11, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

    I’m so jealous! We’ve had such a dry spring that finding Dewberries this year (in central Texas) is very hard. I grew up the same way – waiting for that first little berry to turn from red to purple & actually looking forward to walking home from the bus so that we could pick & eat as many as possible before we got to the house. Love them!!

  22. 22

    Rainyday — July 30, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

    A dewberry, huh? Look just like all the wild ‘blackberries’ I grew up eating, out of ditches, fields, wood trails… who knew! Tasty, though.

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