Wild Blackberry Picking & Preserving

Did you know that there is an abundant, FREE source of good, wholesome food right here in the Pacific Northwest?

Yes it’s true! You can pick wild blackberries this time of year! I am lucky enough to live near a few greenbelts that have many, many of these bushes. Yesterday morning, I decided to check to see if I could find any ripe ones. The patches that were in the sunniest patches did not disappoint, but the good news is that there are still many unripe berries on the bushes which means we may be at the very start of blackberry season.

Now I’ve only ever picked berries here and there for a quick snack, but never gone out for some serious wild blackberry picking. That is, until yesterday! Here are some things you’ll need if you wish to do this:

  • Long jeans or thick pants! (I got “stuck” several times and shorts would’ve been far too painful.)
  • Closed-toes sneakers or hiking boots
  • Sunscreen & hat
  • Possible, lightweight long sleeved shirt (I wore a tank-top and got a bit scratched up)
  • Bucket for collecting berries
  • Small step-stool or a tall friend for gathering the berries up high (optional)

The patch I picked from was far off the road, so I wasn’t too worried about heavy areas of pollution or pesticides. If you’re looking to pick in an area that looks like the vegetation around it has been sprayed, might want to go elsewhere! Also take care of bees and wasps, which may like to make their nests in the bushes. In my area, we have coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, and birds – but in some areas bears might be a real issue! Take care.

All told I spent about an hour picking blackberries. It was rather delightful – a chance to just be out by myself in the sun and enjoy the quiet.

Here’s my haul:

I can’t even begin to guess what this same amount would cost to purchase in the store! And talk about “going local” – these came not even half a mile away from my front door! I estimate I picked roughly 12 cups’ worth.

Here’s what I made:

3 pints of blackberry jam (plus another 1/2 pint is currently chillin’ in my fridge)

2 quart-size freezer bags for smoothies! These can be so spendy to buy frozen at the store. Why do that when I can pick my own?

Blackberry ice cubes: I took the leftover pulp and seeds from my jam and made ice cubes. These will either be used as garnish in fancy drinks (sangria anyone?) or just popped into the Vitamix.

We even had a few leftover for snacks and cereal topping:

I’m already planning to go picking again next weekend for more blackberries! I would love to make some more blackberry jam, freeze more for smoothies, make my own blackberry-infused vodka (HELLO?!), and my son is insisting on a blackberry pie!

Have you done any blackberry picking yet? Thinking about it? Have any other ideas of how you would use blackberries?


Comments

    • arussell says

      Oh!! I’d love your recipe! I’ve never tried it before and found a couple online, but if you have a tried-and-true one, I’d love to know it!

  1. says

    Oh my goodness YESSS!
    This is a major source of fruit for us, in the winter. I pick and freeze at least a hundred (not quite full) quart bags; which seems to hold the perfect amount for my family for a morning of cereal or smoothies or pancake topping or what have you…
    In addition to your “tools” I have a long hook on a stick that I use to grab branches and pull them closer, and a long leather glove that I wear on my “reaching” hand when I need to reach deep into the bushes and grab a branch.
    I LOVE getting free food, and can pick a huge amount in several afternoons – I have my “secret” spots, as do other hard core pickers and we watch eagerly for berries to get ripe…

    • arussell says

      YES that would have been very helpful! There were several “up high” branches full of berries I just could not reach….

      Any other berries/food you forage for or get for free, Marti?

  2. SarahL says

    I go blackberry picking near my house every year! Here closer to Salem, they aren’t quite ready yet but I can’t wait! :)

  3. says

    I have not been blackberry picking this year. But I should try to find a few areas that have some blackberries to pick. My friend found a great spot a few years ago and made some blackberry syrup. It was really good. I may have to give her a call and see where she went to pick.

    Right now I need to get some of the cherries I purchased at Fred Meyer this week into the dehydrator and freeze a few. Lucky for me my kids and husband bought me a cherry pitter. So I may have to wait until next week for berries.

    • arussell says

      Oh fun!! I saw some cherry pitters on sale yesterday – do they work pretty good? I love the idea of dehydrating cherries. Might have to copy you on that one!

      • Colleen Y says

        I just bought a cherry pitter on Amazon and it was the best $12 I have ever spent. I bought 10lbs of cherries at Fred Meyer and have them all in the dehydrator as I type this.

  4. Evon says

    One suggestion to anyone making the blackberry jam:

    Take about half of the berries you plan to use in one batch, mush ‘em up good, heat them up a bit then press them through a fine meshed sieve or a food mill with a fine mesh on them. This will get out a bunch of the seeds and make the jam less crunchy and less likely to irritate the personal plumbing ifyouknowwhatImean. I also seem to get a softer set when I do this (I am not a fan of firm jelly) that spreads very nice.

  5. says

    My parents live on 2.5 acres in Woodinville that is surrounded by blackberries. My mom and I have started pruning the bushes while we pick. We might lose some green berries through this process; however, it is a lot easier to just chop off the branch and pick the berries rather than picking them off the bush.

  6. says

    Yes, hand-picked & free is the best! When I was a kid, my mom would load all of us in the car with buckets, bowls, etc & we would just go from patch to patch along the roads (we lived in the country, so they were nice & secluded) to pick. We would spend all day picking, with breaks for picnic lunch of course. ;o) Now, it’s a fun tradition for my kiddos & have to go even less of a distance since my parent’s neighbor has a huge bunch of wild blackerries in her front yard! They just picked a bunch a couple days ago & Grandma made cobbler right away, yum!
    I’m hoping to get enough to use for homemade gifts for Christmas (infused liquor, blackberry barbecue sauce, pies-in-a-jar, etc) this year too! Especially since my brother & SIL have to PAY $5 or more for a pint in Cali! Whenever they come visit, we load them up with jams to take with them (one year they even bought a duffle bag just before leaving just so they could take some homemade jams, apple butter & canned pickles, lol).
    Oh and SarahL, blackberries are ripe and more than ready for picking in Salem right now! I live near Battlecreek & there have already been people picking there every day for the last few days, at least. Get out there quick or they’ll be gone before you know it!

  7. Sheila M. says

    My daughter started making blackberry pies when she was about 9 years old (she’s 17 now.) It was her first source of income. She would give me $1.00 from each sale to cover the cost of supplies. She made $249 that first summer. We would sell to parents on her older sister’s soccer team and she would get repeat business. The key to our picking spots was to go back to the same place. Because you had already picked there, you didn’t find old blackberries rotting on the vines. Great memories for mom.

    • arussell says

      Great tip on the picking location – and can I just say – your daughter making blackberry pies – wow! Completely resourceful!!!!!

  8. dave says

    ok, i think we are finally inspired to go do some berry hunting. we even picked up a nice free book at whole foods today that shows all the local area u-pick farms..

  9. Stephanie says

    Oh, make the vodka, you’ll be so glad you did. I make fresh liqueurs every year and they are really delicious. I’ve never made blackberry but I have done apple, pear (amazing), lemon, apricot, raspberry and my current favorite cherry which added to Pepsi with a splash of whipped cream vodka is so yummy! All of my husbands coworkers got bottles last year for Christmas and several bottles returned empty with a request for more :-)

    • arussell says

      The recipe I found you just let the blackberries sit in the vodka with some sugar and shake it up every day for about a month then let it sit….does this seem similar to what you do or….?

  10. Patricia says

    If you invest in a steamer, you can make homemade blackberry (and other berry or grape or tomato) juice. I make this in the summer, leave the canned juice on the shelf in my pantry until winter, when it’s not so hot inside, then use the juice to make homemade fruit syrups. These I give as gifts to folks who don’t live in the Pacific NW. Everybody loves them. The steamer is the easiest thing in the world to use — just put some water in the bottom, add the fruit in the appropriate steamer part, clamp the drainage tube and let it steam for around 90 minutes. Then open the clamp and drain into sterilized canning jars, cap with sterilized lids and you’re done. (No need to water bath process afterwards.) Well worth the investment in the steamer.

      • Patricia says

        Besides the usual canning equipment, I’ve found the steamer/juicer and the Squeezo to be invaluable in making things easier for me. Both of them will remove all the seeds, which makes it easy to make jelly and syrup. The squeezo will leave the pulp, but the juicer doesn’t. What I used to do back in the day was use the juicer, bottle and seal the juices and then run the leftover pulp through the squeezo to get the last best use out of the berries, using this to make jam. Then all you have left is the seeds.
        BTW, about the liqueurs — if you’ll send me an email reminder, when I get home (at the beach on vacation now), I’ll scan and send you my Mom’s tried and true liqueur recipe. She’s made liqueurs for years and they’re always tasty, so now I carry on the tradition.

  11. Trina says

    such a timely post. I just came in from the vacant lot next-door where i was picking the few that were ripe. My neighbors complain about the blackberries growing over the fence but i don’t mind…I’ll most likely freeze them for winter smoothies.

  12. Julie says

    We have prolific blackberry bushes in our backyard and I’m always on the lookout for something else to do with them. I found directions very similar to yours in a magazine and tried blackberry vodka (I think my recipe called it “cordial”) for the first time this year. Big hit. We’ll be making more.

  13. says

    I love this post. We have been picking wild blackberries as a family for years. I actually just used up my last bag of frozen berries from last year a few weeks ago.
    I have always used the berries we picked for pies, crisps and smoothies, but I’m excited to make blackberry jam.
    There’s just something so thrilling about making so many good things from something you got for free! Thanks for sharing, Angela.

  14. Laine says

    A tried a true method that I use that I learned from my Dad is to use an old coffee can or whatnot (today was a 3 gallon bucket for me!) with a rope or something fashioned around handle. This then loops across you (think messenger bag). Voila! Two handed picking!

  15. Kim says

    I should have read this post prior to my latest blackberry picking escapade! I was not dressed correctly and I was reaching for that one “perfect” berry and lost my balance…lots of scratches, spilled most of my berries and landed on top of them! Luckily I was on a private road and nobody saw me!

  16. says

    Where would I even begin to look for blackberry bushes? We picked a nice bowl full tonight at my grandpa’s house while we were there…pretty sure I strained something reaching for them way up high (using a really tall ladder even).

    Is there a particular type of space that the bushes like to grow? I’ve never really been “in” to berry picking but I found it a lot of fun and kind of cathartic tonight. Plus we’re going to make some jam tomorrow!

  17. Dan McLean says

    To pick berries out of reach try using a coat hanger that you bend to make a hook on one end. You will easily be able to pull branches toward you and let you pick the berries that seemed out of reach. I’ve been doing that for years and it works well.

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