Wild Flavor

Weeds even a sommelier would covet

If every weed produced jewel-colored, raspberry-like fruit, it wouldn't be such an embarrassment to let the yard become overrun.

But the wineberry is a special weed.

A wild cousin to raspberries, wineberries ripen at the same time and have a similar appearance. But unlike the raspberry, the pinkie-nail-size wineberries resist cultivation, popping up instead in unexpected (and often rugged) places like city lawns and highway medians.

Their thorny bushes make the berries hard to pick, but area chefs prize the elusive fruit for its concentrated vinous flavor. Chef Anthony Chavez of 2941 picks the wild fruit each year on his in-laws' property in West Virginia for homemade jelly and ice cream.

This year, he secured a special stash for the restaurant's dessert menu from several Virginia farms that unwittingly fostered the plants. Chavez made the berries into syrup (click here for the recipe) for shaved-ice desserts.

To try them for yourself, find wineberries at area farmers' markets for the next week. Pick some up to add a wild punch of flavor to ice cream, breakfast cereal or cookie batter.

Buy wineberries at Painted Hand Farm and Keswick Creamery at the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market on Sundays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), First and R sts. NW; marketsandmore.info