Picking Blackberries

Reader Contribution by April Freeman
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I was out in the fields this morning and I noticed that the blackberries are starting to ripen. I snagged a handful to munch on while I was walking.

Blackberries were the first “crop” harvested on our farm. When we moved in, the grass was interlaced with blackberry vines, and the berries were as large as the end of my thumb! I love picking berries for several reasons.

First, they are free. Second, I don’t have to do anything to the berries, besides pick them. No watering, weeding or spraying. I love it when Mother Nature gardens for me! Third, they are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Last of all, they are so tasty. I love to eat them fresh, make them into jam, and bake them into cobblers.

Here are a few berrying tips.

1. If you don’t have any wild berries on your property, ask farmers and neighbors starting in late June or early July. Many times, people have plenty of thickets and can tell you exactly where the best places to pick are. Some folks may not have the time to pick themselves and won’t mind at all if you help yourself. A nice, neighborly thing to do would be to leave them a quart or two of picked berries, give them a jar of jam, or bake them a cobbler in the days after you’ve picked.

2. Always ask before you pick. You wouldn’t help yourself to someone’s tomatoes in their garden, and berries are the same, even though the property owner didn’t plant them. Additionally, you never know what that person has sprayed on their property, so asking is always best.

3. Dress appropriately. Berry brambles are prickly and poky, so wear long pants and wear solid shoes. Flip-flops and shorts mean that you will pay a painful price to get those berries. You also may want to wear a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms.

4. Use bug repellant. If you don’t, you’ll be very sorry.

5. On a related note, realize that wild animals love berries too, and even those that don’t eat them, find shelter in the tall grasses around the blackberry thickets. Ticks and chiggers can make you miserable and transmit diseases. If you don’t spray repellent on your skin, at least spray your jeans with it. Snakes like the thick shade of the berry thickets too. Be noisy to scare off the snakes. If you are picking alone, make a habit of singing and stomping around to scare off critters.

Blackberries are truly a gift. Even though they usually come in when it’s terribly hot and humid, I find that a cobbler in mid-winter from berries that I froze is like tasting a bit of summer. Tomorrow, I’ll post about how to process and freeze the berries, so you can eat on them all winter long.

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