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Darwin’s Barberry

Darwin's Barberry

Darwin’s Barberry is a plant very similar to the Mahonia and also produces a fruit that is extremely similar in flavour and uses.

In fact, you may often come across a Barberry bush and mistake it for a Mahonia because they look so similar. You won’t come to any harm if you do, just bear in mind the differences. While the Mahonia berries are clustered into a grape like bunch across a stem, the Barberry hangs in bunches instead. The leaves are also the same as the Mahonia leaves, but tend to be much smaller, like a miniature version of the Mahonia. The Darwin’s Barberry bush is more commonly seen used as a hedge, whereas the Mahonia is a bit more of a stand alone plant.

Darwin's Barberry

Name: Darwin’s Barberry

Location: The berry of this plant, is typically found around early autumn in a plant that looks very similar to the Mahonia but smaller and often as part of a hedge.

Months: August, September

Edible Parts: Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Anything else

 

Darwin’s Barberry can be used very much in the same way as the Mahonia (Oregon Grape) to make jams and wine and perhaps even cordials. As a fresh fruit it is edible but a bit too tart to be a treat so is best used cooked/preserved.

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Oregon Grape Mahonia Wine

Once you have identified a Mahonia Bush and picked enough Mahonia berries (oregon grapes), you can get started processing them into even more exciting things. You can do many things with these little berries but my favourite so far has to be turn them into wine. They do not call these little fantastic berries Oregon Grapes for nothing! We used a 1 gallon demijohn to test out our recipe this year but the resulting wine was so successful we are definitely planning to fill a couple of 5 gallon drums next year instead.

These berries make a full flavoured red wine that is simply scrumptious and high professional quality. We found it went nicely with game meat in particular.

Minimum Equipment Requirement

  • 1 Gal Demijohn or Drum/Tub
  • 1 Airlock
  • 1 Siphon Tube

Ingredients for 1 Gallon Mahonia Wine

  • 2kg Oregon Grapes
  • 1350g Sugar
  • 2 stewed tea bags
  • top up with water

Method

 

  • Sterilise your equipment
  • Pass Boiling Water through the grapes and mash them up
  • Strain off the juice – do this several times to get the most out of the berries. It should be a super dark red.
  • Place into the primary fermentation bucket/Demijohn
  • Add sugar
  • Top up with water
  • Allow the mixture to cool until it reaches around 21C
  • Add yeast and yeast nutrient
  • Cover and place airlock
  • Keep in a warm dry place
  • After 8 weeks, test the mixture with a hydrometer. Add sugar according to taste if it’s ready to bottle.
  • Add a crushed Campden tablet to clear according to the tablet instructions and allow to settle
  • Rack Off and bottle.

As you can see from our current demijohn we have been so surprised at the wonderful flavour of this wine we have started taking one too many “Test Samples” before bottling! Oh dear!

mahonia wine

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Mahonia – Oregon Grape

Mahonia

Name: Oregon Grape

Location: The berry of the Mahonia, typically American but often found across the UK in posh gardens particularly in new build areas.

Months: June, July, August

Edible Parts: Berries

Non-Edible Parts: Anything else

The Mahonia Bush as pictured above is filled with sharp holly like leaves. As such people tend to stay away from the berries mistaking them for poisonous holly berries. The bushes typically look around this size in the UK with the same twisty wood at the base and a fluffy head of not so fluffy leaves. The berries look powdery blue like Sloes but are grouped together in long string bunches similar to grapes. The berries themselves are often said to be a bit too tart for raw eating but having now tried them myself I would say they are only slightly tart and quite sweet and full flavoured. In fact I was licking my red fingers all the way home enjoying the taste. Mahonia berries can be used to make jams and wine as with most berries. You will not be dissapointed with flavour.

oregon grape oregon grape

One last tip to leave you with as we learned this the hard way: BRING GLOVES when harvesting. The leaves HURT and the juice STAINS. Ouch!

Juice Soaked hands