This past month, as I was walking in the vineyards, I stopped to enjoy the fruits from the blackberries in the hedgerow. Each month I want to share about a different plant that is an integral part of our home biodynamic ranch ecology at Frey Vineyards. While we cultivate grapes, we also have a vast biodiversity reserve spanning over hundreds of acres. Between the wild lands and the cultivated grape vines, we have transitional hedgerow zones bordering all the vineyards. And while we didn't plant them there, we have a tremendous amount of blackberries in the hedgerow zones in between the different vineyards.
These hedgerows are a crucial part of the Biodynamic Certification because honoring wild spaces is a large part of what ensures sustainable futures for our farmlands. We will be choosing plants that are found all over Frey Vineyards, to help give a sense of the diversity in the ecosystem that we tend to on the Frey home ranch. When you uncork a bottle of biodynamic Frey wine, you are also partaking in the diverse ecological network of all the wild lands surrounding our vineyards. We grow grapes, but we also foster the growth of countless other species with our biodynamic farming methods.
Looking at the hedgerow plants gives an unique perspective into the natural wealth we have in our regenerative farming. While the blackberries in the hedgerow usually peak in August, the cooler temperatures meant that I was still able to harvest blackberries on my birthday, September 1st! So, to start off our biodynamic featured plant series, September's herbal highlight from the hedgerow is the wildly advantageous blackberry.
A member of the rose family, the genus Rubus actually contains many hybrid species that have adapted to all kinds of ecosystems. In Mendocino County, we even have a native black cap raspberry, “Rubus Occidentalis” which thrives deep in the wild woods of the land. While non-native blackberries are generally considered an invasive species, they may just be our favorite rebel hedgerow plant. Because blackberries provide food for humans and all the other animals, and because they are hard to remove once established, there are an abundance of blackberries in most so-called wild spaces throughout Northern California.
Their tangled brambles provide excellent habitat for birds, bunnies, and other small animals in the vineyards. Their leaves offer a nutritious meal for visiting deer and our own herd of grazing goats. The roots of blackberries can be harvested and used in medicinal herbal preparations as well. And of course, there are few other volunteer plants with such consistent, delicious, and abundant low-hanging fruit for all to enjoy. Just as the blackberries reach their peak in the home vineyards at the end of the summer, the grapes begin to come into their fullest sweetness as the cool of fall sets in.
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