Picking wild blackberries is one of the treats of living in a rural area. Deciding what to do with them is a creative challenge this cook is up to!
This is the time of year when the wild blackberries are ready to pick at Seven Oaks. Blackberries on our farm are both a blessing and a curse. They’re a blessing because they produce abundant free fruit that’s both tasty and nutritious. I love eating fresh blackberries, and the birds, bears and foxes also love it. We find a lot of fox scat along the driveway at this time of year, and the blackberries near the bottom of the bushes disappear overnight. We saw the red fox run through the yard about two weeks ago, crossing over the lawn and up the farm lane, and I hope he or she is visiting those blackberry bushes for a tasty snack.
But the blackberries are a curse when they invade the garden – which is always. They have to be the most opportunistic, sharp-thorned, impossible to get rid of plants God ever made. I’m forever pulling blackberry vines from the garden beds. They send out long runners underground and produce a single stem. At first, the stem looks like an innocuous, almost pretty little weeds. If you grasp it with bare hands, however, you’ll be sorry. Large, sharp thorns are interspersed with thorny fuzz along the stems that leaves small, itchy welts. At least they itch on my hands.
When you pull out the blackberries, you have to pull the entire root. If you only get a partial root out of the ground, it grows back with a vengeance. Blackberry plants are like the hydra of ancient mythology. Cut off one stem, 10 more develop along the cane.
Yesterday, I grabbed my plastic pail and headed out to the stand of blackberry bushes along the driveway. The berries are about one-third ripe, with two-thirds remaining the color of raspberries. The trick with wild blackberries is to wait until the fruit is a deep, dark purple. The duller the color, the better, for that means the berries have sweetened, although you can eat them when the shine is on the dark purple berries. Don’t eat the ones that look like raspberries; they are bitter as bitter can be.
Doesn’t look like much, does it? These are the blackberry bushes along our driveway. They are loaded with fruit.
On closer inspection, you can see the berries on the bushes. These are unripe.
The ripe berries are dark, dull purple, and mixed with the unripe. Watch the thorns. Ouch!
Picking wild blackberries can be challenging. No matter how careful I am, always manage to get scratched and bloodied. I look like I’ve done battle with a monster. My hands drip with purple juice, palms and fingertips stained by the fruit; bloodied scratch cross my arms. Last night, my right hand swelled a little with myriad scratches and tiny thorns embedded in the skin. Luckily, it cleared up this morning.
The results are worth it. I picked at least a pound of wild, organic fresh blackberries. At the supermarket they would have cost at least $5.98, perhaps more.
This morning, I enjoyed fresh blackberries picked along the farm lane and fresh strawberries from my garden for breakfast. This is the time of year I cherish.
It’s not gardening unless I’m accompanied by a cat. Whitey came to the blackberry patch to help.
A word of caution if you’re new to foraging: Blackberries are one of the easiest wild berries to identify in the wild, but please do not randomly pick berries and start munching. Learn how to distinguish healthy wild edibles from poisonous ones. Take a class, visit your local Cooperative Extension office, or find a good field guide before you forage for wild edibles.