Top 5 Tips for Blackberry Picking

blackberry pickingWe’ve had a sunny summer on Bainbridge Island (sunsunsunsun! we shall now call it “sunner!” instead of “summer”) and the blackberries are already bursting all over the place.

That means all over the island people are picking berries and whining and getting pricked by those spiky tendrils.

I grew up in Dallas but I’ve lived here over a decade time, where do you go? and have whined a LOT learned a few things in regard to this delicious and evil (a winning combination!) fruit.

1. Use protection. Never fails, every year, I forget to wear enough protective gear at first. I cannot overemphasize this probably, I could! Blackberry bushes are Satan. They don’t just prick you *ouch!* but they deposit some lingering, fizzy evilness, just like stinging nettles do. To get nettles like Langdon Cook taught us, I wear gloves and use scissors, but you cannot do the delicate act of berry picking this way. The most I can do is layer up, long sleeves, long pants (extra thick, sturdy old jeans are great, not the stretchy, thin stuff of fashion departments!), closed-neck shirt, maybe even a hat, or at least pull back long hair. I have not found gloves that protect me and still allow me to pick gently. So I just send my hands in there carefully, like a game of Operation.

2. Deploy child labor. Not only will this lower your odds of being injured (although living with a suffering child is a whole other kind of pain…), but the picking will go faster and you’ll get more berries unless your child labor has become like mine–a lazy whiner quitter girl. Tell them “it’s fun!” and that’ll buy you a few seasons.

3. Bigger is not necessarily better. I know you want to haul out your biggest buckets for this project, but with fragile berries, don’t do it! Unless your planned use for them is a berry compote, you’ll want a wide, flat container so you’re not making a berry high-rise and smushing all the goodness. Don’t smush the goodness, people!

4. Look down. We’ve discussed clothing, but I personally have marched off dressed appropriately except for my feet. Guess what, the bastard branches twisted around my feet and up under my pant leg! Do you want sizzling stinging sensations on your toes? your ankles? I think not. Wear solid shoes and socks.

5. Timing is everything.
Don’t get all excited and head out right after a rainy night. It sounds silly with these sunny days, but wait ’til fall is almost here and you see little black fruits still dangling! Take a breath. The berries hold that moisture and more times than not, get mushy. Let them dry a bit before picking. Also, make sure those little “pockets” as the Kid calls them, are large enough. That’s where the juicy, sweet goodness is. I, too, hate patient, but you’ll be glad later. Who needs an unplanned pucker-fest of unripe berries in their mouth?

So far, we’ve eaten some berries, frozen some and I believe have many, many more to harvest. Here’s to pain-free berry picking!

Do you have any tricks for picking? Favorite berry recipes?


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