Southern Dewberries – A Tradition As Sweet As Pie
Dewberries grow natively across a large part of the south eastern US; from Maryland south to Florida, then west to Texas and Kansas. They flourish in swamps, flood plains and bottom lands. Their white blooms appear in March and April, turn to small green berries that grow red and eventually turn a deep purple-blue when fully ripe in May, usually about 6 weeks after the last freezing temperatures. They will continue to bear sweet fruit for several weeks unless extreme heat or drought causes them to become dormant.
Not only are dewberries sweet and edible, but they are perfect for cobbler, jam or pie because they have fewer seeds than their close cousin the blackberry. You can also use the leaves for tea. Merriwether’s Foraging Texas website has a guide that explains how to harvest dewberry leaves for tea.
Is that a Dewberry or a Blackberry?
The answer is yes! If its a dewberry it is a blackberry, but if it is a blackberry, it is not necessarily a dewberry. Dewberries are a variety of blackberry, and there are hundreds of varieties of blackberries. So what exactly is the difference?
- Dewberries ripen before blackberries
- Dewberries grow on vines that run along the ground, blackberries grow on tall bushes
This short video we found on YouTube shows viewers the difference between the two plants:
Pie, Jelly or Cobbler
Now that you’ve harvested a crop of delicious dewberries, what are you going to do with them?
Looking at this picture of the amazing dewberry cream pies and jams, sent to us by Katie Koon, makes me want to go find a dewberry briar and start picking them right now! Katie also sent us the recipe she uses:
Dewberry Cream Pie
Serves 8 | Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 1hr 15m
Pastry for 9-inch one crust pie
2 – 3 cups dewberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
- Prepare crust in a 9-inch pie pan and leave uncooked. Arrange fresh or frozen berries inside the uncooked crust.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine eggs and one cup sugar. Beat until creamy, then add sour cream and continue to beat until smooth. Add 1/4 cup flour and mix until smooth.
- Pour batter over berries in pie shell.
- Cut butter into 1/4 inch cubes and mix with remaining flour and sugar with a pastry blender until the mixture is coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie filling.
- Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for about one hour until top is lightly golden brown.
Making jams and jelly at home is something I grew up doing with my grandmother. Not only do they make great gifts, its a really easy way to preserve fresh berries. Kandi Kane Lamb shared her recipe for dewberry jelly with me recently and I can’t wait to make it!
Approximately 12 cups fresh dewberries
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups prepared juice
3 cups sugar
1 package Sure-gel (less or no sugar pectin)
1/2 tsp butter or margarine
- Step 1: Prepare the berries:
Crush berries and place in a large saucepan, add water and stir. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 5 min on low heat. Pour prepared fruit into 3 layers of cheesecloth. Tie it closed, hang and let drip into a bowl until dripping stops. Squeeze gently to get out all of the juice.
- Step 2: Measure prepared juice into a large pot (if necessary add up to 1/2 cup water or apple juice to get exactly 4 1/2 cups) Mix 1/4 cup sugar with Sure-gel in a small bowl and add that to the juice. Add in butter or margarine and bring to a rolling boil while stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 2 3/4 cups sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle into heated, sanitized jars leaving about 1/4 in space.
- Step 3: Can using the waterbath method.
It doesn’t matter how you like your dewberries, now is the time to go find them before its too late and they are out of season!