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How To Pick Wild Blackberries - A Guide to Harvesting

Updated on July 10, 2016
The darkest blackberries are ripe, and the red and green ones are not
The darkest blackberries are ripe, and the red and green ones are not | Source

On a recent trip to the supermarket, I was browsing the produce section and couldn't help but notice the blackberries.

They were sad-looking things, a little bit mushy and close to spoiling -- and being sold for $5 for a tiny little package. And people were buying them.

But at the edge of the parking lot outside, there were the most magnificent blackberry bushes growing wild, where ten minutes of picking could net far more than that meager handful of berries - and they were fresher, sweeter, and juicer as well.

And yet, nobody was picking them.

When I've been out collecting berries, myself, I've always been surprised by the number of people who stop to see what I'm doing, most of whom never even knew what the bushes were, much less that they could be collected.

So if you're new to berry-picking, let me help you get started!

What you will need:

  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Boots
  • Jeans, or other thick pants
  • Small bucket or plastic milk jug with the top cut off
  • Water bottle

Finding A Place To Pick

Blackberries are a water-loving plant, and will often be found near ponds, rivers, creeks or roadside drainage ditches.

A good place to start looking is at your local park, or along less-used roads with plenty of open space or vacant lots.

Places to avoid:

  • Near busy roadways. Aside from the danger from traffic, the pollutants will stick to the berries
  • Anywhere it is forbidden - some parks do not allow it, so ask first
  • Private property without permission
  • Near any site with a significant amount of pollution

Blackberry Thicket
Blackberry Thicket | Source

Identification: Making Sure You Have The Right Plant

Proper identification is key with any wildcrafted or foraged food. There are poisonous plants out there, and some of them can make you very sick or even kill you if you eat one by mistake. So always be absolutely certain before you eat it!

Features to look for:

  1. Blackberries usually create thick, dense, impassable thickets
  2. Lots and lots of sharp thorns
  3. Three to five leaflets in every leaf, with thorns on the bottoms of the leaf veins
  4. The berries are aggregate fruits -- meaning they look like they've been put together from lots of tiny little round balls, rather than being one smooth fruit

Getting Ready To Harvest

The author's preferred berry-picking container
The author's preferred berry-picking container | Source

Finding the right container is important. It's easy to slip and spill your entire harvest into the dirt if you're using something that's hard to keep hold of.

My preferred berry-picking equipment is a large plastic milk jug with just the top cut off, leaving the handle intact. It can be easily grasped, or even tied to a belt for extra security.

If you can't get one, a small bucket with a handle is next best.

What else will you need?

  • Thick pants and long-sleeved shirts. Those thorns hurt, and you want all the protection you can get! [Because of this, I recommend berrying in the early morning before the day gets hot, or your outfit may get uncomfortable]
  • Good boots. Thorns in the feet are quite unpleasant.
  • Water. Blackberries are ripe in the hottest part of summer, and it's easy to overheat or become dehydrated.

Choosing The Best Berries

Ripe Blackberry
Ripe Blackberry | Source

Look for the darkest-colored berries you can find. If they still have red or green parts, they aren't ripe yet.

Give the berry a gentle tug. If it doesn't come off easily, leave it be and look for another one -- when they're fully ripe and sweet, they almost fall off right into your hand. If you have to pull hard to get it loose, it'll be sour.

Avoid the shriveled, shrunken-looking berries, or berries that mush in your fingers. These ones are overripe, and probably beginning to spoil.

You want the perfect balance where the berries are still large, plump, and juicy, but feel soft. These are the ones that make the whole thing worthwhile!

So you've picked what?

Finding things to do with the berries is always the best part. You can:

  • Put them on top of vanilla ice cream
  • Make blackberry pie
  • Make blackberry cobbler
  • Freeze them and add them to fruit smoothies
  • Make blackberry juice
  • Make a sauce for pork
  • Add them to fruit salads
  • Throw them into a bowl of Greek yogurt for a low-calorie breakfast
  • Bake Sweet Blackberry Biscuits

If you have anything to add to this list, post a comment below!

Ever gone blackberrying? What did you think of it?

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I love wild blackberries. Thanks for the tips on the best time to harvest.

    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 3 years ago from Oregon

      Excellent hub on picking wild blackberries. This is what I end up doing with a lot of the berries we pick along the Oregon coast.

    • CassandraCae profile image

      Cassandra Kuthy 3 years ago from Ohio

      Wild blackberries are my favorite, I eat them right off the bush if I know they are pesticide free.

    • notsuperstitious1 profile image

      Edith Rose 3 years ago from Canada

      To KL Klein: Yes we can pick wild blueberries about 75 miles north of where we live, and we are going this weekend. It is quite a chore, as they are low growing and it quite hard for us elderly to bend down and pick. When we get there we might just inquire in town if someone has already picked them and willing to sell them.

    • KL Klein profile image

      Krissa Klein 3 years ago from California

      Oh, yes, snakes are a good point! We do have rattlers out here, and although they tend to prefer hotter and rockier areas, it could be worth mentioning.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Voted up and more and shared! Your tips are great, especially on which (recycled) container to use and where to find the best berry patches. Where I live, we also have to be very cautious of snakes.

    • KL Klein profile image

      Krissa Klein 3 years ago from California

      notsuperstitious1, that's too bad, it's so nice to pick them...does your part of Canada have blueberries? That might be an okay trade-off, if so :)

    • notsuperstitious1 profile image

      Edith Rose 3 years ago from Canada

      I love blackberries, but unfortunately they do not grow wild where I live, so I have to buy them from the supermarket, and I have not found any nice ones this year.

    • KL Klein profile image

      Krissa Klein 3 years ago from California

      Hi tirelesstraveler, thanks for stopping by! Yes, I love the milk containers -- so much easier than the bowls I used to use. My mother likes to fasten several at once to her belt, so she can pick with both hands free.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      The milk bottle is the best berry carrying device I have seen in a long time.

    • KL Klein profile image

      Krissa Klein 3 years ago from California

      aka-rms, thanks for stopping by! I love blackberrying; when I was a kid it was always my job to go and pick enough for the pie. Fortunately I've found a decent spot only about ten minute's drive from where I currently live, so I can still get my fix in.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 3 years ago from USA

      We used to have one in our backyard. Now I'm craving them. Thanks for the memories.