The Low-Down on Blackberries

Blackberries on the Down-Low

Published on: Jun. 15, 2012

For the past few weeks, I have been jealously eyeing the blackberry patch in my yard. I’m happy to share with robins and box turtles, but as lord of the manor, I demand annual tribute of two or three blackberry pies.

This year’s blackberry crop began with great promise. The vines in my yard flowered so profusely and persistently that the patch appeared to have a dusting of snow for most of April and May. I drooled just thinking of the bushels of berries those flowers would produce.

I normally expect to begin picking berries around Independence Day, but with this year’s early spring I hoped to see vanilla ice cream melting over warm purple pie filling by mid-June. The berries high on the vines began blushing red weeks ago. However, with less than an inch of rain in the past 30 days, the ripening process has slowed to a crawl. July 4th probably will come and go before most of the berries are ready to pick. If it doesn’t rain soon, they could all burn up.

Looking out across the patch yesterday evening, I thought I could see enough deep black berries to fill a measuring cup, so I donned the briar-proof pants I wear for rabbit hunting and waded into the thicket. I figured I would put a few early berries in the freezer and add them to later pickings.

Because of the drought, the berries are small. That’s okay. What they lack in size, they make up in intensity of flavor. But I did have to work to get one cup’s worth. Then I dropped one of the larger, fatter, berries. Not wanting to let even one get away, I burrowed down through the thorny stems to retrieve it. I was astonished to discover that the lost berry had company! Around it were dozens more, still attached to their stems. I had stumbled onto a berry bonanza beneath the visible patch.

Apparently, thrifty blackberry plants are investing most of their resources where moisture is greatest and sun exposure least. And besides being more numerous, the shade-grown berries were bigger. I ended up with a full quart instead of the cup I bargained for.

So, if you have been waiting for better pickings in your favorite blackberry patch, grab a bucket, knee pads and leather work gloves and look for berries on the down-low. Use a gloved hand to lift the fruit-bearing canes and a bare hand to pick.

If you get enough berries, you can bake a pie for your dad in honor of Father’s Day.

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Comments

On June 22nd, 2012 at 8:35pm NW Mo pickers said:

I have been eyeing our patch of wild blackberries for awhile now. My wife and I just picked our first batch about an hour ago. We picked alittle over a gallon worth of berries... my guess is we missed probably twice as much as we picked. Our intentions are to keep picking them once a day as long as they are allowing us to do so. In past years, she picked them for us... I would have started helping her sooner had I known there were so many. I remember picking them on the farm where we lived when I was growing up. Even though I never liked the thorns (still don't)... I always remember how much of a reward it is when you get to eat them later. They are found high and low. Happy picking everyone.

On June 17th, 2012 at 11:52am Anonymous said:

I've picked over a gallon of wild blackberries this past week and have barely made a dent. We have them both along out tree line and our road. The ones in the tree line are larger (shaded) but ALL are fair game. While working the tree line I discovered a thicket of wild plums; a wonderful surprise. Blackberry and plum jam coming soon.

On June 17th, 2012 at 7:28am Anonymous said:

I have picked about 5 gallons of blackberries on our farm in southern Missouri already this year. I generally pick around the Fourth of July, so the berries are really early. We had a couple of rains at the end of the dry spell and it really helped the berries. They were decent size, not huge, but not bad.

On June 15th, 2012 at 5:46pm chuck said:

I have been picking Blackberries now every other day ( in christian county). have been getting from one to two gallon each time. My raspberries where all (two gallon) picked and in the freezer by the end of may. Have been getting blackberries as fat as my thumb. they have mostly been high up on six to seven foot vines supported by brush or other vines. Mainly in partial sun to shade. Will make pie and cobbler this week.

On June 15th, 2012 at 2:07pm lowj said:

I would bet the berries you picked in early June were raspberries. Raspberry vines are round and purple color with a white wash. Blackberry vines are square or angular and green or brown. - Jim@mdc

On June 15th, 2012 at 2:01pm Randy Broyles said:

We picked 3 qts on June 3rd! It is very dry here too and the berries haven't ripened much since then. I'll look closer low-down. Thanks

On June 15th, 2012 at 1:49pm Gretchen Mueller Steele said:

Our wild patches over here in IL are hanging heavy - but as you pointed out - ripening slowly.. and just as you discovered the bug fat thumb sized ripe ones are low.. I've been doing my picking in the patches that are all jumbled in with honeysuckle.. peek under that honeysuckle and there's a bonanza waiting there! If we happen to get some rains - this is going to be a memorable year for them!
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