Berried Treasure

By MDC | July 1, 2024
From Xplor: July/August 2024
Berried Treasure

Forget about desert islands and pirate chests filled with gold. A much sweeter treasure is ripe for 

the taking, right here in Missouri.

Blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries reach the peak of perfection from June through August. These yummy wild treats are found across Missouri in a variety of habitats. There’s probably a patch growing nearby just waiting for you to find them!

Prepare for Picking

  • Summer can be sweltering, so you might want to time your berry picking for early morning or early evening when it’s slightly cooler and the sun isn’t so harsh.
  • Wear sunscreen and a shady hat to keep your skin from getting sunburned.
  • Blackberries and raspberries don’t give up their fruits without a fight. The brambles are covered with sharp, prickly thorns. Armor up with long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid becoming a human pincushion.
  • Chiggers and ticks hang out in the same habitat as berry bushes. Before heading out, spray yourself with insect repellent to keep the bloodsuckers at bay.
  • Bring water to drink, bandages for scratches, and a bucket to hold your bounty of berries.
  • Blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries are safe to eat and easy to identify. But some berries will make you sick if you eat them. Never eat a berry you aren’t sure about.

Wild for Berries

Humans aren’t the only animals with a sweet tooth. Berries offer healthy energy for lots of wild critters, too.

American robins, cedar waxwings, and many other birds feast on mulberries when they ripen. Loud, joyful tweeting can be a clue that a mulberry tree is nearby. Fox and gray squirrels savor mulberries too. You can tell when one has been eating berries because its snout will be stained purple.

Wild turkeys love to gobble blackberries and raspberries. Even though they don’t have fingers, they’re surprisingly skillful at avoiding thorns when they pluck off berries with their beaks! White-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, and even box turtles also enjoy blackberries and raspberries.

As you’re picking, you may hear the hum of bumblebees gathering nectar and pollen. Not to worry! These hardworking flower farmers won’t hurt you, and they ensure that pollen gets passed from flower to flower. Without bees and other pollinators, we wouldn’t have berries to eat.


Where: Dozens of different kinds of blackberries grow throughout Missouri. Look for them in sunlit habitats such as along the edges of woods, pastures, prairies, and fencerows.

What: Blackberries form thickets of brambles 6 to 8 feet tall. In May and June, the brambles are covered with clusters of white, five-petaled flowers visited by bumblebees and other buzzy insects. The leaves have three to five leaflets with “teeth” around their edges and are green on both the top and bottom sides.

When: Glossy, purple-black berries reach peak sweetness in July. Red berries aren’t ripe yet. Don’t pick them!

Black Raspberries

Where: Black raspberries are found throughout Missouri except in the Bootheel. Look for them in sun-dappled forests, along bluffs, and at the edges of woods.

What: Like blackberries, raspberries form thorny thickets. The brambles grow a little shorter than blackberries and have a white coating that rubs off when touched. The leaves usually have three toothy “leaflets” but sometimes five. The upper surface of each leaflet is green, but the underside is white. Black raspberry fruits look nearly identical to blackberries, but the center of a picked raspberry is hollow like a thimble while a blackberry’s center is solid.

When: Black raspberries reach their peak from mid-June to early July. Unlike their red, store-bought cousins, black raspberries are purplish-black when they’re fully ripe.

Red Mulberries

Where: Red mulberries grow statewide at the edges of woods, in low-lying areas, and on damp hillsides. They’re also found in yards and parks.

What: Look for a tree with a short trunk and wide-reaching limbs that form a rounded crown, like a stalk of broccoli. The tree can reach up to 60 feet tall — leave the berries at the top for the birds! Heart-shaped leaves are edged by tiny teeth, and some leaves may have lobes. When plucked from the tree, the leaves bleed a milky sap. A similar tree, the nonnative white mulberry, has smaller, shinier leaves with lots of lobes.

When: Red mulberries ripen from June to August, reaching their peak in early July. The berries are red and sour at first then turn purplish-black when ripe and sweet.

Somersault Cobbler

What should you do with all the berries you’ve picked? Make a cobbler, of course! With this recipe, you sprinkle the berries on top of the cobbler, and they somersault under the batter as it bakes. You’ll flip, too, when you taste how yummy it is.

Here’s What You Need

  • 1 cup sugar (divided in half)
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries, raspberries, or mulberries
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup water

Here’s What You Do

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine half a cup of sugar and the shortening. Use a hand mixer to blend it until it’s creamy.
  2. Mix in the milk, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Grease a square 8-inch cake pan and pour in the batter.
  4. Top the batter with berries. Use a butter knife (or your fingers) to flake bits of butter on top of the berries. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the whole thing.
  5. Grab a grown-up to help you. Bring the water to a boil and carefully pour it over the berries and batter.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes until the top of the cobbler turns golden brown.

Berry Ice Cream

If you’re too hot to eat cobbler (really?!) after a steamy afternoon picking berries, try cooling off with a bowl of ice cream. In a food processor, blend 2 cups of berries, 1 cup of sugar, and half a cup of water. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a glass bowl. Mix in half a cup of heavy cream. Chill the mixture in your refrigerator for an hour, and then pour it into an ice cream maker. Soon you’ll have a berry cold and berry yummy treat!

Paint with Berries

If you find more berries than you can eat — we should all be so lucky! — turn some of them into paint. Put half a cup of berries into a bowl and use a fork to smoosh them into mush. Stir in ¼ cup of water and pour the mixture through a sieve to strain out seeds. Blackberries and raspberries make dark purple paint; mulberries make pinkish-purple. The paint works best on watercolor paper, but it will stain nearly anything it comes in contact with, including fingers, clothes, and tablecloths. Be careful!

Also In This Issue

This Issue's Staff

Artist – Matt Byrde
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Marcia Hale
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber