Appalachia

Meet The Blackberry Pickers

The blackberry pickers

We’ve been playing the part of Mr. & Mrs. Blackberry Picker this summer. Here in Cherokee County the blackberries have been fantastic this year.

Wild blackberries

 

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve noticed people pulled over on the side of the road picking blackberries.

Last week, I took the students in my cooking class on a blackberry picking trip. The class was during Inter-generational week-so I had kids as well as adults. I’m not sure the kids had ever picked blackberries before. When I told them about chiggers they almost backed out on me-but they persevered and I don’t think the chiggers bit anyone but me.

Picking blackberries in wnc

 

Lucky for us-The Deer Hunter scoped out a whole patch of blackberries that are easy to get to and easy to pick.

In about 30 minutes time we picked a little over 2 gallons. A friend of the girls’ tagged along with us and she picked more than any of us-and she talked on the phone while picking them! We teased her that she must be the blackberry picking champion of the world.

My favorite thing to do with blackberries is to make jelly. No other flavor of jelly can please my taste-buds like blackberry.

Got blackberries?

Tipper

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    July 26, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Tipper,
    Truman is selling our blackberries to the folk school for those delicious pies everyone is enjoying at the folk school.He and I pick blackberries every other day, which we enjoy picking together. We get out early around 6’30 and pick five to seven gallons. tipper I would love to have some receipts for cobblers and pie. Truman loves blackberry jam, while I love the jelly.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Tipper,
    and Wanda…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…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    JOHNIE T. ARANT
    July 23, 2014 at 9:35 am

    YOU MAKE YOUR CRUST LIKE YOU
    WOULD ANY CRUST PUT YOUR COOKED BLACKBERRIRS IN AND PUT A CRUST
    ON TOP TAKE A FORK AND TRIM THE
    EDIGES THEN PUT IT IN THE OVEN
    AND BROWN THE CRUST.
    YOU GOT YOUE BLACKBERRY PIE.
    P.S YOU MIGHT WANT TO PUT A
    LITTLE THICKEN IN THEM TO
    HOLD THE BERRIES TOGETHER.
    JOHNIE IN ARK,

  • Reply
    Sam
    July 23, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I am picking blackberries now in this corner of WV. Black raspberries are done. Somebody asked about the difference. Raspberries have a smooth (except for prickles) round stem and the leaves are whitish underneath.

  • Reply
    RB
    July 23, 2014 at 12:09 am

    That looks like back breaking work. We had ’em here a month or so ago. Bro Tom was the only one who recognized what they were and kept picking them. We were surprised none of the neighbors had noticed them.
    By the way, do you know the difference between a blackberry and a black raspberry (guess there is such a thing). An old man told us blackberries grow on taller bushes and have brown stems; whereas black raspberries grow on shorter ones with red stems. Now whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, and Google isn’t working well tonight, so I can’t check it, but I did think I’d share it anyway.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    July 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Julie said, “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.” This is what my mother did and she called it blackberry pie, but it was not a pie at all. Boy, was it good. I’ve never seen anyone make this except my mother and I didn’t know how she did it. I’d love to have a recipe for this dish.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 22, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Just reading some of the later comments.
    Julie I never ate blackberry dumplin’s. Wow, do those ever sound good. I think I will hunt me down some berries and make me some. I guess you just make a sweet biscuit dough and drop with a spoon into the boiling sweet berries until they plump up done!
    Goodness I don’t need more sweet stuff. Maybe that would do me til next year! How about peaches and blueberries…did you Mom ever make dumplin’s using those fruits?

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    July 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    I love blackberries! I make jam, and of course cobbler.
    Pam

  • Reply
    Wanda
    July 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    We tried to transplant wild blackberries onto our garden fence line but they never produced so we mowed them down. Very few around here since such an increase in population.
    When I was a little girl my granny had a big patch of berries down in a shady holler between her house & ours. It must have been the perfect soil & conditions because they were the biggest & best berries ever–close to the size of some of the cultivated berries.
    My nephew & niece picked me a few last yr. but they had a bitter whang to them even in preserves. Wonder why????

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 22, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I remember once my friends had scoped out all the blackberry thickets in preparation for the berries ripening. A couple of days before what we determined was the time to start picking, four car loads of people from the city came through and stripped the brambles of green, semi ripe and ripe berries. There was no blackberry joy that year.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 22, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I never seen our snake dogs attack a junebug but one of them loved to kill bumblebees. He would pull his lips back and start snapping his teeth together. He’d jump plum off the ground. Morn likely he’d get him one too. He didn’t eat ’em, he just liked to kill ’em. He shore was quick. If he had been an ill natured dog, I bet he coulda bit you twelve times before you could say “Get this thang offa me!” Luckily the only objects of his wrath were copperheads and bumblebees.
    You know what? I might just get me a dog and train him to attack junebugs. Might make a little extry money renting him out to skeert blackberry pickers. Whadda you thank?

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    July 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    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 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.

  • Reply
    Junebug Skeert
    July 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    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 betterhalf 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.
    and Jim, I have heard men say they go hunting just to relax and think awhile waiting on that critter to show up!

  • Reply
    Junebug Skeert
    July 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    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 betterhalf 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.
    and Jim, I have heard men say they go hunting just to relax and think awhile waiting on that critter to show up!

  • Reply
    Junebug Skeert
    July 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    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 betterhalf 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.
    and Jim, I have heard men say they go hunting just to relax and think awhile waiting on that critter to show up!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 22, 2014 at 11:50 am

    chiggers LIKE me!!!! But blackberries are more than worth it. Last time I picked blackberries was in Seattle, Washington while walking down the street. Was so surprised to see them and they were huge and so delicious – it was very early morning and they were cool. Miss my grandmother’s cobbler and jam.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 22, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I see people picking blackberries beside the road here too. They look like good ones, but I worry about what the state might have sprayed on them. When I was a kid, the state cleared the roadbanks and ditchlines with convicts. Convicts might be dangerous but they aren’t toxic.
    Mommy thought a summer was a failure if she didn’t can at least 100 quarts of blackberries. She didn’t make a lot of jam and jelly while they were in season. She concentrated on getting all she could get canned. The jams, jellies, pies, dumplins and cobblers came later.
    The kids were responsible for all the picking. Mommy would get all the jars, lids, rings and accessories washed and scalded. When we got all our pails, buckets and bellies full we would take them in and she would start processing. If it wasn’t too late in the day, she would send us out for more.
    We never worried much about snakes because we always had a good snake dog around and Mommy made sure it went with us when we went picking. Some snake dogs would just bark and let you know where the snake is and others actually kill it. A few times the dog would get bit. It would swell up and be sick for a couple of days but then it was good to go.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    July 22, 2014 at 10:52 am

    For some reason the blackberries don’t seem to do nearly as well in our area as when I was a kid. The chiggers are just as plentiful though!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 22, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Tipper,
    I love blackberry jelly but jam is my favorite. We also love blackberry cobbler. We picked here right before the fourth of July and I made a cobbler. Our berries always seem to come in here the last of June and you better be picking by the fourth or you will get the ones the June bugs munched on! I didn’t make Jam this year. The last few years I have been making freezer jelly and jam. I especially love strawberry jam.
    We have run into a copperhead or three especially my son. He had just lifted his foot to mash down some empty briars to widen his path and there he said all coiled up to strike. He carefully backed out and called for his Dad. Sorry the copper went limp, after all this is my neighborhood! Always be careful reaching into the back of an overhang of the biggest berries you ever did you, that is when you will get into a big waspers nest. Hurts like the devil when stung when its so hot in July! My husband picked blackberries for cash as did I. Being from a large family his Mother put up bag after bag of blackberries in the freezer as well as jam/jelly, etc. When she tired at the end of the day she let the boys fill the orders of the neighbors…yes at 50 cent a gallon. Now then, I challenge anyone on here to pick blackberries faster than my husband. He ties his bucket thru his belt in front. Usually back in the day it was a wire handled small gallon lard bucket. He goes at it with both hands, filling his hands before emptying them in the bucket. He has fairly long nimble fingers attached to basketball players hands. He rarely drops a berry.
    After our berries are fading into a memory, we would go to my aunts in the cool mountains of NC when the blackberries were just starting to come in and pick more!
    Love this post,
    Do you ever make blackberry syrup for pancakes or waffles. I used to make a jar or two for the fridge that I didn’t use for jam!
    Thanks Tipper,
    I wish I had a bite of hot cobbler and some homemade vanilla ice cream melting on top!

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    July 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Jim Casada earned more for his berries than the ones I picked when I was 10-12 years old. I only got 10
    cents a gallon. Big money back then.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 22, 2014 at 9:51 am

    We have “dewberries” which come ripe around Mother’s day. Ours made a good showing but other things prevented me from picking this year. I did get the first pass at picking mustang grapes last week and have juiced most of them preparing to make jelly and syrup – also have a recipe for grape mash cobbler I want to try.
    As for chiggers – we powder ourselves with powdered sulfur wherever clothing is tight – – although last year that wasn’t working too well, this year it’s doing the trick. For the bites we get, we coat them with a strong mint flavored toothpaste gel – really soothes the itch.
    Problem is, this year, for the first time, I had a reaction to working in the grape vines and with the grapes. My hands itched and swole (swelled) up for all of last week! Now I’m looking for close fitting cotton gloves – – just can’t give up mustang grape jelly!!

  • Reply
    dolores
    July 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Yes, I agree the blackberries were wonderful this year. Lenoir, in Caldwell County in NC, has a huge Blackberry Festival every year. It was wonderful, and the large blackberries sold were fantastic. I’m glad you had such a good time with your cooking class.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    July 22, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Would you post how to make blackberry jelly? I want to make some but haven’t done that before. I sure miss my Granny’s jelly.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 22, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Tipper,
    Looks like we’re on about the same page.
    I picked some just before dark Sunday.
    Mine are mostly still red, but soon I
    hope. Blackberry cobbler is my favorite sweet. Ain’t never tried making jelly. I still got several containers froze from last year’s picking. I gotta get several for my granddaughters, they love ’em…Ken
    PS: since you’re experienced at picking, how about helping me pick a
    couple more 5 gallons of beans?

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 22, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I moved away from “my” blackberry patch on our property at Epworth, GA when I moved to Middle Georgia, Milledgeville, due to my husband’s illness in 2003. I miss the blackberries every July, and making blackberry cobbler, freezing blackberries for winter use, and making jam and jelly–also my favorite “breakfast sweet” flavor! My son Keith now lives on that same property, and I have him alerted already to “look out for blackberries ripening!” And he promises me some jelly from our faithful vines! Loved seeing your “pickers.” They put me in mind of many years in the past when we found wild blackberry patches when I was a child and picked away–and yes, sold some of them, too. My mother also canned blackberry juice. It was used as I recall for some stomach ailments that needed herbal treatment, and if she didn’t have time to make jelly when blackberries were fresh, a half-gallon of juice could be used later to make a batch of jelly.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    July 22, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Those chiggers are nasty! It seems like the remedy was clear nail polish over the spots to cut off their lifeline. A double whammy is a summer filled with chigger bites and yellow jacket stings. I daresay when one is eating blackberry cobbler in the winter the bites and stings are a distant memory. I used to prefer sticking to wild strawberries, as everybody used to tell us copperheads loved blackberries.
    I am always so pleased to read your blog, Tipper. I just love the way you can take me away from all the daily news about political corruption, and you just plop me right down in a blackberry patch. Our growing season is behind yours, but my favorite thing is seeing a blackberry picker on the side of the road.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    July 22, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Oh, how I miss blackberry picking. My dad planted blackberries as part if his garden when we were kids. When I lived in Tallahassee, the ponding area behind my house was filled with blackberry bushes — enough for me and the neighborhood kids who raided the bushes as soon as the berries were even slightly red. Look out for snakes, though! I still think my cat was killed by a bite from a snake lurking in those bushes…

  • Reply
    Steve in TNT
    July 22, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Blackberries are the best. Almost like manna, they are easy to grow or find…there for anyone with the energy to pick them.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    July 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

    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.

  • Reply
    suzannah
    July 22, 2014 at 8:06 am

    We cleared a small hill when we built the pool 3 years ago. Rather than fighting the weeds I let them grow and found this spring that blackberries had come up. I cleared around them in May and now have picked about ten cups of blackberries right in my own backyard. I intend to manage the patch as it expands and look forward to having a steady supply in the summers ahead.

  • Reply
    TimMc
    July 22, 2014 at 7:44 am

    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 then the other..

  • Reply
    Sharon
    July 22, 2014 at 7:41 am

    We have blackberries coming in right now in central Maryland. Thankfully, no chiggers. My favorite is black raspberries. They were ready in the latter part of June. You can tell when they are ripe because the orange trumpets of the daylillies herald their arrival. This year all the berries are big, plump and flavorful. I think they liked the wet spring and summer. A favorite here is black raspberry cobbler. Dad’s favorite is blackberry jelly.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    July 22, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I have blackberrys.We love them. I make jelly , cobbler. freeze some. They are just starting to ripen here. Usually, they are ready the first week of August. WE are going to have a huge crop this year.
    My squash plants are huge . Only blooms so far. Keep watching for those baby squash to start growing.
    Barbara

  • Reply
    niki risenhoover
    July 22, 2014 at 7:23 am

    How surprised was I to find blackberries growing on my street. I could just taste the blackberry jam I was going to make, never mind that I had never made any. Well, when life hands you blackberry slurry instead of jam, make blackberry cordial. Not sure what I did wrong, but it never jelled. Oh well, I knew that Vodka would come in handy!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 22, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Tipper–Picking blackberries was my number one means of making money when I was a boy around 12 or 13 years old. A gallon brought precisely two bits, a quarter, twenty-five cents, or however you want to put it. That, in turn, would purchase one store-bought trout fly. To a boy who loved fishing though, that was just fine and I picked many a gallon. Oddly enough, I don’t recall ever having gotten chiggers (I sure recall some in adulthood though), but there were a couple of memorable experiences with wasps and yellow jackets.
    I wonder if others among your older readers ever picked blackberries for cash money? I actually saw some folks picking along a road the other day, the first time I’ve done so in ages. It’s good to hear there’s still some gumption left in the Brasstown area.
    As for the eating side of things, I reckon a blackberry cobbler made by Mom’s simple recipe tops my list. In fact, I think I’ve got enough berries in the refrigerator to make one today. See what you’ve done gone and done with this blog!
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 22, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Blackberries and chiggers usually come together! Glad you made lots of jelly this year. How about sharing a jar with me!
    Are the black berries still in? I’d love to pick some for my friend Saleh when I come over.
    Blackberry cobbler used to be my dad’s favorite.

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