Thieves & Kings
Wolf Berries are an uncommon fruit found growing wild in the lands around Echo Wood, though they are also reputed to be more common among the scattered woodlands of the western Shadow Dragon’s Remnant. The berries grow on deciduous woody bushes about three to six feet in height, and the berries cluster closely about their branches. They grow well in sheltered thickets, and are commonly groused by bears and other wildlife foraging for winter food.
The berries are about the size of grapes, growing from lavender buds that mature into the fruit around late Savor, where it becomes ripe enough for harvest. Harvested easily by hand, the fruit are bright orange-red oval fruits roughly half an inch in diameter. They are quite bitter when eaten raw, but when dried they become a somewhat bitter-sweet fruit that can be preserved for long-term storage. They are often used in baked goods as raisins might be, and are a popular snack during the long winter months. Some claim the fruits can be mashed and used as sweeteners in ale, providing a unique bitter-sweet flavor, but such recipes tend to be closely held secrets. They also make a popular tea.
Efforts to cultivate the fruit have never been very successful, but wild patches of the berry are often kept secret, as they grow well enough on their own in sheltered thickets away from prying hands. The ripe fruit is especially tender, making harvest by hand often simply a careful shaking of the branch into a cloth sack. While some warmer lands see the fruit come to ripen in early Azura, most are harvested by late Savor; drying the fruit takes roughly up to a ten-day, depending on how long they have exposure to the warm sunlight. If stored in cool, dry cellars, and in open boxes to provide good ventilation, the dried fruit can last for many seasons.
Harvesting of Wolf Berries has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and they are a popular treat among the ancient Ninnellen tribes of the Grandwood Forest. Considered by the rural people of the region as a supplemental crop, they have never grown well when efforts have been made to cultivate them, so they are usually left to grow wild in hidden thickets, where farmers can harvest them towards the end of their regular crop’s growing cycles.
The berry is rarely seen on the open market, as most efforts to harvest them are solely for personal consumption. When they do reach market, they are universally sold dried, as they cannot be transported easily as a fresh, tender fruit. Sold in open bushel baskets, they have a market value of 300 sp per 30-lbs basket, but are usually sold by the handful (10 sp per handful).