Monday, September 6, 2010

Wild Berries in Western Washington (Blackberries)

This is a continuation of my series on wild berries in the Pacific Northwest.

In the Puget Sound area typically Labor Day weekend is the prime time to pick blackberries.  However we have had a very cool summer and there are still lots of green berries on the bushes right now and overall not a plethora like usual.  There are two species that are ripe right now.  I already blogged about the native trailing blackberry that was ripe a month or so ago.

Himalayan Blackberry

This is the most common bush you will find around here.  It is an invasive species and is often treated as a weed. According to my berry book the only other place in the world blackberries are treated as weeds is New Zealand.  You will find these bushes in almost any empty lot, empty field, under powerlines, or on the side of the road.  The best spots to pick are bushes that are away from the road and have lots of sunlight.  Make sure the bush looks healthy as people will sometimes spray them with poison.  Bushes near the road may also have lots of pollution on them.  The bushes will grow in the shade, but the berries are not as sweet if they do not get a lot of sun.  The berries grow from green to red to black and are ripe in late August early September.  The leaves are oval shaped and have serrated edges.  The bushes are very thorny so you have to be careful while picking.  The berries that are perfectly ripe and taste the best are the ones that are slightly soft and come off the bush without having to pull hard.  You can usually find bushes that have large amounts and you should be able to pick a bucket or two of berries without much problem.  It is really satisfying to get so much delicious free food.  Blackberries make yummy smoothies, ice cream, milkshakes, and jam.  Flash freezing the berries is a good way to preserve them for later eating.

Cut-Leaf or Evergreen Blackberry

The evergreen blackberry is quite common as well though not quite as common as the Himalayan.  The evergreen blackberry's berries are firmer, have larger seeds, and in my unscientific sampling are less likely to be sour.  These berries also go from green to red to black and are ripe in late August early September.  The leaves are deeply incised and tend to be a darker green (the first picture's color seems to be more accurate).  This species doesn't tend to be as loaded as the Himalayans so picking a large amount is a little more difficult.  But many times the two species grow together and you can pick both at the same time.


Nicole P said...

Thanks for this blog! I've been trying to figure out what these berries are at the new house we are buying. It's the evergreen blackberry. I hated leaving my rental home with all the blackberries, but glad that I'll still have good berries to pick.

Nicole P said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I knew that the blackberry leaves looked different. They are the evergreens! We are closing on a house in about 2 weeks and we have those along the fence line!