Blackberry picking sounds like a great time. It would be, if not for the briars you must reach through to pick the plump sweet blackberries farther in. And picking doesn’t always garner the quart of berries needed for a pie. The reason is–some berries don’t make it past the mouth. But those that make it into the bucket can become a delicious berry snack for later or a mouth-watering blackberry pie. Read on for blackberry picking tips and blackberry pie baking tips.
Keeping Back the Blackberries
Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, blackberry vines grow wild. In fact, blackberries are not viewed in a positive light by everyone. Some folks view blackberries as an invasive and noxious weed. Vines overtake logged areas in no time, and vines overtake a yard if care isn’t taken to keep it from happening. Some folks poison the berries vines, others use a shovel or weed-whacker to rid the noxious weeds. And some folks just get a goat. No matter the method, it’s a constant chore to keep back the berries.
Blackberry Picking Injuries
That’s why it’s fairly easy to find blackberry vines growing wild. Where vines grow, berries grow. Some patches are so thick you can see deep blackberry color just hanging off the vines when berries are ripe. But picking isn’t easy. You have to take your share of pricks and scratches from the very thorny canes. You will get injured, your hands will turn purple, and your arms will get scratched up. Nevertheless, the luscious berries are worth it.
Blackberry Picking Rates
In the late spring of May and early June, 5-petaled white flowers decorate blackberry vines that quickly turn to unripe red berries and then to ripe blackberries. In a sunny patch, you can pick a quart of berries in 15 minutes and a gallon in an hour. A gallon of blackberries can sell for $20-$30 or more, if you can find a buyer. This makes blackberry picking a great job for kids–but strangely, there are few takers.
Where to Find Blackberries
Blackberries grow in woodsy areas and tolerate poor soil conditions. They thrive in acidic soils and barely need soil to root. I’ve had blackberries root in my yard on top of decorative bark. Wherever a cane bends low and touches the ground, it roots. That’s why a blackberry patch is such a tangle of stems and branches.
Pickers Take the Offensive
Blackberry pickers must wear boots or enclosed shoes, jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and any clothing must be as snag-resistant as possible. The giant canes will attach to whatever enters their space. For this reason, I pick the outside canes and then step them to the ground and stand on them, as I move my way into the center of the patch. You need to take the offensive and be smarter than the vines.
Blackberry Bucket Tip
The way I fix my blackberry bucket gives me 2 hands free for picking. I poke 2 holes at the top rim of a coffee can–opposite each other. Then I thread a yard-long twine through each hole and make large knots to keep the twine secure to the bucket. The length of twine goes around my neck, and I adjust it for perfect picking height.
Blackbery Picking Tips
With bucket in place, I begin picking ripe blackberries–no red ones or ones with red color showing at all. They will be tart. A ripe berry comes off with a gentle tug and is fragile. Because of this, it’s better to pick partial buckets to avoid crushing the berries in the bottom.
Ripe berries store in the refrigerator for a few days, but don’t rinse them–they keep better. Blackberries are best eaten fresh; however, few desserts are better than warm blackberry pie from the oven. Here’s my recipe for this summertime favorite.
Classic Blackberry Pie
Prepare 2 standard pie crusts. Swipe the bottom crust with egg white to keep it from getting soggy. In a mixing bowl, combine 4 cups blackberries, ¾ cup sugar, 3 T. tapioca, and 2 T. lemon juice. Mix gently with your hands until no white shows. Pour into bottom shell, dot with 2 T. butter, and cover. Vent top crust, brush with a 1 T. milk and dust with 2 T. sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack before cutting.
Blackberry Pie Adjustments
You can adjust the sugar to 1 cup, if your berries are more tart or you like a sweeter pie. You can add 1 T. more tapioca, if your berries are overly juicy or frozen. Although I’ve never made this pie with frozen berries, I would imagine frozen berries would also take extra time in the oven. You can also choose to use raw sugar to dust the pie top. The little bit of crunch is nice.
Blackberries are worth the scratches and stained hands. The harvest is free and the rewards are delicious. When blackberries come on this year, why not head out with a ready bucket hung around your neck?