Appalachia Wild Fruits

Berry Picking Tips from Blind Pig Readers

berry picking tips

Jackie – July 2013

I have a cure for the snakes in the blackberry patch. Fire up a chain saw and set it on the ground on one side of the patch for 2-3 minutes. You can watch the snakes skedaddle out the other side. The vibrations get them moving. For those with tame and wild blackberries just mix them and you still get good tasting jams and jellies. Our blueberries are almost done. We put about 5 gallons in the freezer. We have 8 bushes about 3-4 years old so they are just getting started. When we operated a food pantry in Utah we recieved 300 lbs of frozen blackberries in 30 lb cases. We knew none of our clients had freezer space for 30 lbs and probably most would not know what to do with them. Since we also held ‘life skill’ classes I made jam and jelly while my wife explained the process. One client said, “This is just like watching Emril on TV.” We let everyone taste the results and constantly heard, “This is much better than that stuff we buy.” We gave each family enough berries and sugar to make a run at home.

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B.Ruth – July 2014

Wild Blackberries can be very invasive, so careful where you plant them. Also Blackberries produce only on the second years growth. Wait til the following year and watch for the blooms. Sometimes bitter berries are due to a dry spell after the bloom drops and while the berry is forming. Of course, those Japanese beetles make them nasty too. I would watch where I picked to avoid a spray over from toxins in the neighborhood or from road crews spraying to kill brush…PS I hate that dead look, but know there is not enough money to clean around ever pole and stop sign. Blackberries need Mother Natures help with a combination of heat and water to make the perfect sweet berry. Now that said, tame berries thorn-less, are not very sweet in my humble opinion. There could be some sweet ones now-a-days. The ones we had growing were not sweet. Soooo, I let my tried and true prickly critter ridden wild ones grow up and fill in the spaces. Birds plant a lot of wild blackberries around here as well as wild raspberries and dewberries.

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Julie – July 2014

This makes me think of my Granny. She had a blackberry patch across the road by the pond. She would pick them until they were all gone. She always carried a hoe in case of copperheads. She would make jelly, jam, and blackberry dumplin’s. They are still my favorite. You roll out dough like you were making dumplin’s. Instead of dusting with flour you dust with sugar. Drop those babies in hot boiling blackberries and sugar and what a meal!! I liked mine hot with vanilla ice cream over the top. When I was lived in Seattle the blackberries grew wild everywhere. I mentioned at work were they sprayed or could we use them for pies. They looked at me like I was nuts. They told me those were considered trash berries and were saved for the birds to eat. Needless to say, for the four years I lived there the birds didn’t get as many berries!! They made the best pies and cobblers. The people at work could not believe I was using them. Their loss.

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Junebug Skeert – July 2014

There is nothing like being out of a mornin’ or late evenin’ pickin’ blackberries! A jug of ice water nearby, your bucket and your own thoughts. As you clomp along shaking the ground somewhat to hopefully ward off that sneaky snake ahead of your tramped down path your making. Right in the middle of more unpicked briars, those loaded branches hanging up over your head you reach to grab the biggest ones you think you’ve seen all day. You are thinking, boy oh boy it won’t take many of these to make pie, cobbler and enough to make several runs of jelly. Then it happens, a head of June bugs make the loudest buzz you ever did hear and fly off the berries you were reaching for. It scares you til you almost pee in your pants and want to leave. You scream…the better half yells from down the way from where you are picking, “Is it a snake?” “Nope,” I yell back, my heart still beating hard, “just June bugs!” It takes a few minutes to gather your thoughts, and go back to picking and relax in the solitude of thoughts as you pick those berries! I think that is why I love sitting on the porch breaking beans, peeling apples or going fishing. You’re getting something done while your mind just wanders around pondering this and that. More people need to relax and do this type of work. I have heard men say they go hunting just to relax and think awhile waiting on that critter to show up!

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Janet Smart – July 2014

My blackberries here in WV aren’t ripe yet. I’ve picked them since I was a kid. We always worried about ticks and snakes when we picked. We always wore boots, long pants and long sleeves when we went picking. When we had way too many, we walked down the road with a water bucket full and sold them. I think $2 for a water bucket was the going rate back then.

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TimMc – July 2014

That is some of the best memories as a child when my Mom and I would go blackberry picking. We always wore long sleeves with coal-oil (kerosene) rags around our wrist and ankles. We’d carry a hoe so we could pull the ones you couldn’t reach toward you,, and to help chop a path or a defense if you ran into old no shoulders, (snakes). Mom always put up quite a few jars of jelly and jam, because my brother and I would fight over who got more jelly than the other.

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I was hoping to pick blackberries this weekend, but so far the rain has put a real damper on my plans.

Tipper

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    July 2, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Not many berries around my house. Just enough to eat off the briars. Don’t see many snakes and by the time I got my old Homelite saw started I’d be too hot and tired to pick berries.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    July 1, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Tipper,
    We had lots of rain this evening. We went a’lookin’ for us some new patches…Those we found had already had some stomped down briars…and already picked…Guess, what we have in our old garden area will have to be our pickin’s this year…
    I used to love to have my better half tromp into a big patch…I would start picking and pick all around in a circle reaching low, middle and high as I could…Then he would come in and reach the tops…Those were the good ole days…
    Only one time when I was a kid did I get eat up with chiggers…We picked in long pants, socks and good shoes thereafter….also doused with bug repellant stuff my Mom made up…
    Like Jim…waspers right in the middle of the berried briars, about a foot in is where the devils hid their nest…It never failed that after avoiding a red wasp nest…the next batch I reached for had two or three june bugs on the backside of the berries and I would grab a buzzing bug and near pee in my pants it scared me so bad….
    My son (that passed) loved him some blackberries and loved to pick blackberries…He come within a inch stepping right on a coiled up copperhead…he stood still yelled for his Daddy and slowly backed off…when my husband got to him that old monster was still standing his ground….but got squashed in more than one piece….Yep, they then went on finishing their berry picking!
    Great post,
    Thanks Tipper…hope you got you some berries!

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    July 1, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Blackberries are my favorite berry.!! We always had them and I didn’t know until I was late teen just how hard they were to to come by; to harvest and prepare. Bugs , snakes, washing , tired. Everything was just FUN to me. Granny didn’t have time for fancy things so she dropped biscuit dough by spoonful into the hot sweet bubbling compote then put it in the oven till golden. Oh my, I love it.!
    She would drain cooked berries and drain all day in cheese cloth to get seeds out for jam for the picky family members. I was her little shadow for as long as I was able to stay with them and of course the blackberry picking warning was, ” don’t pick the RED BLACKberries, they’re GREEN.”

  • Reply
    Tmc
    July 1, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Blackberry picking will forever be one of my sweet memories of years gone bye. Walking home on an old dirt road late in the evening with our 5 gallon buckets. Mom is on a walker now, and blackberry picking is just a memory to her also. Wow, time has flown.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    I have been picking for a few days now, but there are still lots of red berries. I try to pick in early morning or evening, but I sometimes get in the mood to pick in midday and put on a broad brim hat.
    My tip: jeans, a long-sleeve denim shirt, ankle-length or higher boots, broad brim hat (mine has a neck shade that hangs down to my collar). I also carry a large handgun. Mostly, bears will run if you make noise, but you never know when you need at least a very loud noise to negotiate with. And if you encounter a rabid fox or raccoon and have nothing to negotiate with, you could be in for a big hurt!
    Two years ago, a large male bear came crashing out of the blackberry brambles about 150 feet from me. Fortunately, I yelled and he took off in the opposite direction. No need to discharge the handgun, but I was comforted by its presence.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 1, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I used to love to pick blackberries in my Grammaw’s pasture. It was steep and over the years the cows had worn little trails back and forth around the mountainside. The strip between the trails is where the blackberries grew. The cows would eat pretty much everything else. They would keep the grass picked down short so you could see a snake if there were any. The blackberry briars usually hung over into the trail below and the berries were about eye level. The cows kept the plants fertilized pretty good so the berries were big and juicy, almost as juicy as the fertilizer. All we have to do is put our little blackberry buckets under the briars and milk them almost.

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 1, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Tipper,
    I love reading all the other people’s experiences with berries. After feeding my dog and Cats their daily can of food, the Cats leave some for Whisky to clean up. He sits patiently waiting for them to get their fill. And he even eats some of the dry Cat food, but afterwards I enjoy sitting down to my computer for a spell.
    If the rain holds off, I hope folks get their berries gathered in. I still got several canisters from last year’s picking, frozen. Maybe I’ll make a blackberry Cobbler for the 4th. …Ken

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    July 1, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Makin’ a blackberry cobbler today. Can you believe I looked in 3 of today’s cookbooks, and they did not have a recipe for blackberry cobbler? I am glad I have saved mine for years. I guess I will not try to improve upon it. It works. Everybody enjoy this year all kinds of berries.

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    July 1, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Sure wish we had some around here. They make the best preserves ever. My husband likes the seeds to be in it.
    I was thinking about the biscuit cobblers my granny and mama made long ago. I wonder if your mother has ever made them. they sliced the biscuits open and buttered them, them poured the fruit and syrup on and sprinkled with sugar and baked . So good!!

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    July 1, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Tipper it was a nice memory to see a post of mine from 2014! This year it is not berries but figs. I am battling the hornets and yellow jackets for figs. So far they have gotten me twice. I always look at my canning as a labor of love. This batch of preserves will be higher and painful in price! Haha

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 1, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Tipper–What to me are the two biggest bugbears connected with picking blackberries aren’t addressed in much detail, I’ll ask your readers for their thoughts. First and foremost comes chiggers. Those insect buddies of Beelzebub can make you flat-out miserable in the aftermath of a pickin’ time. I’ve heard various deterrents mentioned over the years, including kerosene, crushed mint rubbed on your wrists and ankles, the various insect sprays, etc. None seems to work completely. To me the best approach is probably taking a shower right after you come from the berry patch.
    Another problem, one I’ve encountered more than I would wish over the years, is wasps. They seem to have an affinity for building nests amidst blackberry briers.
    Now for a few general observations.
    *Shakespeare once opined (I’m working from memory so this may not be exact) that “If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries” he’d show you a reasonable man.
    *Seasoned blackberry pickers will realize there are dozens of sub-species or variants, and these vary from small ones with big seeds to large, luscious berries (although obviously habitat has something to do with size as well).
    *I’m not sure what size water bucket Janet Smart used in old long ago, but it it was a two-gallon one she was living in high cotton in terms of the price a bucket full fetched. I picked them for money quite a bit as a kid, and the going rate in the early to mid-1950s was a quarter a gallon. I did have one school teacher who paid me four bits a gallon, and of course she was always the first “customer” I let know that I had blackberries available. The same lady paid two bits for a #8 paper poke of poke salad, and that was much easier monetary pickin’s.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 1, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I love Black Berries but those around this year are small and I’m losing the race for them to the Robins and other birds. I remember when I was small I hated picking Black Berries, we would go to my Great Grandparents old farm which was covered with briers and occupied with Copperheads and Rattle Snakes, We would take a No. 10 Tub and six 10 quart buckets and Dad, Mom and we four kids would pick till all the containers were full or it got to dark to watch for snakes, Hornets and Yellow Jackets. My Mom would turn these berries into Jams, Jellies or can the berries for cold weather uses. Of course she would make a pot of Lairpins (cooked and sweetened berries thickened with a little flour and served over hot biscuits and fresh butter or maybe a pot of Dumplings or a Cobbler. These wonderful uses would erase the fear of snakes, briers and bees I felt while picking the the berries until Berry Pickin Time rolled around again.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 1, 2017 at 7:59 am

    My job, self appointed, was to make trails through the blackberry patch for my Mom and my Aunt. That was way less tejus than pickin. I don’t recall any snake scares but we were always on the lookout for them.
    I can still remember my Mom canning and pouring paraffin in the top of the jelly. In later years though she stopped doing that. I’m not sure either why she did or why she quit.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 1, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Tip, I found some black raspberries on the creek way back in my yard. There aren’t many of them so I’m gonna try clearing out around and above them and see if they will produce enough to pick next year. I like blackberries but I love raspberries and they make wonderful jam!

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