Dewberries 2012 or Answering the When and Where of Fruit Picking

If you are looking for dewberry recipes look in one of my earlier posts.

There are two googled questions that bring many people to this site.  The first one is when are the dewberries (or any other fruit) ripe? The second is where can I find the plant.? These two questions are not answered easily.

First, Texas is a big state so when fruit are ripe where Texasjellymaker lives may not be when they are ripe for you. Fruit that are ripe in far South Texas may not be ripe in San Antonio for up to 4 weeks later. Fruit in Beaumont in East Texas may take  another week or so longer to develop. Austin may be a week or so later than San Antonio. Further north in Dallas will have even later times for ripening fruit. Additionally, each year the dates are different  since the weather dictates much of the starting dates. Wet weather will speed up the date and drought will make the date later. This year , for example dewberries are ripening a good week or two earlier.  So use the dates when  I write the article as a guide but the most reliable method of determining when to pick fruit is to go out  occasionally to where you are going to pick to assess the fruit development. Additionally, even in one patch or one area the plants or trees flower on their own time table. My favorite dewberry patch ripens two weeks earlier than any other I know of in the same area. I have determined that the constant moisture that this spot has means that the fruit develop sooner than where it is not as moist. And in my favorite patch there are many plants fruiting but just as many just beginning to flower. So there will be ripe fruit over an extended period of time. The same is true of tree fruit such as loquat or Chinese plum. One tree may have green fruit while the one down the block may have ripe orange fruit. One side of the tree may have ripe fruit while the other side may need a week longer to be ripe.

To me the best part of making jelly is that I get to go outdoors and interact with nature. And believe me, dewberries and most other Texas fruit interact with you by scratching and impaling you as one picks them.

The second question, as to where you can find the fruit , is also not easy to answer. Everyone asks me, “How do you know where to find the fruit?” The best answer for that is that all year long I  hike out into the woods, fields, along railroad tracks, and anywhere there are wild plants growing. Visit your botanical gardens to get an idea as what the plants look like then hike, bike, jog, or otherwise get up and close to the great out of doors. While you are doing all that great exercise you will not only find the fruit you are seeking, you will find many other wild or escaped plants. Before you know it every time you go anywhere you will see so many fruit sources that you will have many places to chose from when it is harvest time. When you do find the dewberry plants or any other fruit, look carefully at where you found the plant. Is it in the sun or shade. Is it in an old woods or recently mowed area? Has there been a fire or some other event that would encourage your plant to grow in a particular area? Is in a dry area or a wet area? Look for the plant when it is flowering. If you look for the plant when it is flowering, as I have mentioned in other posts, you will discover that the flowers are like little lights directing you to future bounty. Many people wait until the plant fruit before they start looking. Many times the fruit will hang down and be inconspicuous. Of course, other fruit will grab your attention, such as large bright colored fruiting loquat.

As I was picking this evening around dusk I was reminded why I love berry picking and jelly making. Look at the beauty I spotted.

So, enjoy your walks on the wild side and look for flowering and fruiting bushes and trees. And by the way, mulberries are ripening now. I will be out picking them so why don’t you.

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6 Responses to Dewberries 2012 or Answering the When and Where of Fruit Picking

  1. Windell Cannon says:

    I have a lot of persimmons on my property out side of San Antonio which led me to your site. i would like to make a jam or jelly out of the fruit, but i am prediabetic and trying to avoid all the sugar
    any advice on what to substitute for the 3 cups.
    thanks
    Windell Cannon

    • Windell-
      Persimmon jelly is a favorite of many of the people who have tasted my jellies. I use Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin that I got from HEB. In the instructions it suggests using 1 1/2 cups of Splenda or actually using no sugar at all. You will still want to use the lemon juice as per my recipe. The jelly might be runnier than usual. To counteract it being runny I would suggest you add 1/3 more of the No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin and boil the mixture an extra 30-45 seconds. Let us know how it comes out.

  2. Mike O says:

    Thank you for putting up your experiences online, I’ve seen plenty of Dewberry plants in my hikes in the San Antonio area but have rarely found any good patches. I found this site while trying to find some recipes for making jam from Condalia (or Bluewood) berries, I also would be interested in jelly from Turk’s Cap fruit (I’ve also heard of it called Mexican Apple) as well. The Condalia berries are small but have a fairly sweet taste with the seed taking up most of the volume. The Turk’s Cap fruit has an interesting taste of a cross between an apple and melon in my opinion.

    Thank you again for all you do,

    Mike O

    • Mike-
      I am glad you enjoy this site. I enjoy writing about my experiences making jellies.
      Dewberries need to be pretty much in full sun. They also prefer more than normal moisture such as near a ditch. So look in places that provide both water and full sun. Additionally, they don’t like to be crowded out by other plants. Look where the area has been disturbed and then has been left alone for several years. Once an area grows over it shades out the dewberries and you won’t see as much fruit.
      I tried Bluewood this last fall. I was only able to gather 4 cups of fruit instead of my usual 8 cups. I had the hardest time harvesting them. Bluewood has vicious thorns and very small fruit. Much worse than picking Agarita berries. Additionally the fruit sticks to the leaves after picking so cleaning it was a tremendous chore. My wife finally took pity on me and helped me finish processing it. I made the jelly but it had a flavor I could not abide. The texture was very glue-like and strange. Overall it was an experience I would only wish on my worst enemies. It was the hardest fruit to harvest, process, and make into jelly of all the fruits I have ever utilized. Maybe your experience will be different. Let me know.
      The Turk’s Cap does have an interesting flavor. I have lots of Turk’s Cap in my yard. I froze the fruit as I collected it. I gathered it everywhere all season long but I never got enough for a recipe. Turk’s Cap jelly was on my list to make but until I get lucky and find the mother lode of Turk’s Cap fruit the jelly will remain outside my reach.

  3. Sidney says:

    I was glad to read this article. The drought has been so bad in South Texas I am having problems finding berries this year (2013). I used to have a great place just south of Beeville, but they widened the highway and I haven’t found another place that is as good. I was wondering if you had any suggestions?

    • Sidney- I have never been to Beeville but I usually look along railroad tracks. From what I could determine there used to be a railroad running through Beeville, leaving the old right of way still in place. I would look along there. The old trestle crossing at Poesta creek would be another place I would look. I like to look near water because they will be healthier and more fruitful. Now is the time to get out and look. The fruit is ripe in many places. I already made my jelly but the dewberries in my yard are still producing. Unfortunately, unlike some fruits, dewberries are hard to spot from the car so it means getting out the hiking boots and start walking. Besides, it is a great time of the year for a walk. Last week I found dewberry plants in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and more in front of an IHOP restaurant. Go figure. I usually end up finding a lot more fruit than just dewberries when I am out on my jaunts looking for dewberries. Mulberries, cactus and agaritas are very likely in your area. Another thought, is when you do find dewberries dig some plants up and plant them in your yard. I now have about 15 in my backyard and another 6 blackberry bushes. Enjoy! Thanks for writing.

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