Backyard Blackberries, Bounty or Bain?
Foraging Wild Blackberries
There are many among us who consider wild blackberries to be the bane of our existence, especially when they try to take over our yards. Here in the Pacific Northwest Costal areas, blackberries grow wild and without constraint, can take over any reasonably sunny and moist area. A lot of people expend huge amounts of time and money trying to eradicate blackberry bushes. I choose to take a more moderate approach and try to allow a generous growth for harvest while containing some of the more invasive incursions.
Blackberries only produce on 2nd year canes. That means that if you want berries, you have to let the canes grow a bit. On the other hand, the canes die after they have born berries and then do nothing more than contribute to a growing bramble of wicked thorns that soon become impenetrable. If you want a continuing and viable harvest without being overrun, it takes a bit of pruning work and attention.
Blackberries not only grow from their roots, but will establish new roots from runners wherever a cane touches ground. That pretty much accounts for their ability to take over any unattended area. Add to that the fact that birds love them and will excrete the viable seeds and you can see why this forgeable plant can be both bounty and bane.
In our area, blackberry harvest season begins about mid August and will continue for the next month or two. This is probably the most productive period though early and late harvests are available depending on the location. In my backyard, I have berries that are long past due, some perfectly ripe, some coming on, and even some new blossoms.
Right now, I can spend a half an hour after work each day, and pick a quart or two of fresh ripe blackberries. I don’t usually do a daily hunt but every 2 days yields a great gathering.
So, what do you do with a quart or a gallon of blackberries every day or two?
Fresh berries alone are wonderful or in a salad. Fresh berries on ice-cream or with Devonshire Cream are delectable. Fresh berries with yogurt are great and berries on cereal make a fine breakfast. Berries in muffins add taste and moisture. Dried berries are good for long term preservation and quite tasty in granola, trail mix, or added to oatmeal for breakfast. A wonderful pie can be made from either fresh, frozen, or dried berries. Blackberry jam, jelly, or wine are also perfectly good uses for this bounty of nature.
Sometimes I don’t know or am not ready for final preparation of the berries we gather. When I have more berries than I know what to do with, I will either freeze them or dry them. For freezing, I rinse and drain the fresh berries and then spread them out on a cookie sheet which goes into the freezer. I freeze the berries for 24 hrs and then transfer the frozen berries to vacuum or freezer bags for longer term frozen storage. To dry the berries, arrange them in a single layer on a food dehydrator and dry for 24 – 48 hrs. Vacuum package and store in freezer or on shelf depending on storage length desired.