As summer winds down and kids head back to school, a tasty treat is ripening in many open woodlands. Blackberries are an easy “beginner” foraging crop to look for in your woods, and right now is the perfect time to keep an eye out for them.
Blackberries aren’t just tasty; they’re healthy too. They’re rich in antioxidants, fiber, and Vitamin C.
As someone who has tracked through numerous blackberry patches in the woods, though, I can attest that snagging these tasty berries isn’t quite as easy as it might seem (I have the holey jeans to prove it!).
Yep, those are blackberry canes all around that poor guy. Note that they’re taller than he is.
With that in mind, here are some tips for blackberry foraging:
- As with any woodland foraging, the first and most important rule is to always, always, be certain of what you’re eating. If you have any doubt about your plant identification, it’s better to be safe and leave it alone.
- If you’re picking on property that isn’t yours, make sure you get owner permission first.
- Blackberries are one of the “bramble fruits,” and they deserve the name. The berries are protected by tall canes armed with sharp thorns (ok, technically they aren’t thorns, but the point is, ouch!). Protect yourself by donning long pants and sleeves made of durable fabric.
- Give blackberries a chance to ripen. In the photo above, snag those black blackberries, but leave the red ones to darken.
- If you aren’t sure where to look for blackberries in your woods, check out open areas that get decent sunlight. Recent timber harvests and blowdowns are great spots to check. Roadsides are common areas to find blackberries too, though I tend to avoid them because of the risk of road pollutants like salt being on the berries.
- If you’re collecting a lot of blackberries, bring several small containers rather than one large one. That reduces the chance that the berries will squash under their own weight.
- Make sure you leave some blackberries on the plant. You want there to be berries in future years, and many birds and other wild animals rely on blackberries for food. As a rule of thumb, take no more than a quarter of the ripe berries, and leave any berries above head height for the birds.
- Foraged blackberries spoil quickly, so eat or freeze them within 24 hours of picking. (confession: I’ve never brought wild blackberries home. They’ve never made it that far.)