Thursday, July 2, 2015

Black Raspberry Picking

Early July is one of my favorite times of the year! Mulberries are usually still going strong and black raspberries are usually ripening. We have a little patch of black raspberries on our property. It doesn't seem like we usually have enough to make anything with our raspberries, as four boys and their momma like to snack on them whenever they're out in the yard, eating them freshly picked from hand to mouth. They are delicious!

After seeing my aunt and cousins posting pictures of raspberry picking and the subsequent pie, we thought we should try a larger patch as well. I'm grateful we have access to my grandparents' acreage, plus we get a visit with the grandparents as well. We stopped in, chatted for a bit, they fed me, and then the boys and I hit the trail. Grandpa mentioned a patch near the burn pile so we concentrated our efforts there. We brought along bug spray, colanders for collecting berries, and bags. I would also suggest water if you'll be out for long, but we knew we could visit the house if needed.

Tips for Black Raspberry Picking: 
  • Have containers for collecting the berries. I like light weight colanders. It's helpful to have someone nearby holding the container for the picker.
  • Wear pants (jeans are good) and sturdy shoes. The raspberry canes have thorns (even on the leaf stems) that really can scratch. Sturdy pants allow for fewer scratches and being able to get into the berry patch better. Additionally, I usually find poison ivy where I find black raspberries. The pants and shoes help protect from the poison ivy. I didn't wear long pants, but made sure to wash my legs with cold water and soap as soon as we returned to my grandparents' house. 
  • Some people also like long sleeves to protect their arms. With warmer weather, I just accepted that I would have a few scratches, but felt it was worth it. I was wearing a light sweater. The lighter weave easily caught on the thorns; however, a sturdier weave would be helpful.
  • Some type of bug repellant is usually a must unless you really like mosquito bites!
  • Sunscreen or sun protection is also recommended as you most likely will be in the sun for a while. 
  • I found pulling the canes back really helped find berries we were missing. Looking from different angles (having shorter children helps sometimes!) also helped us discover more berries. 

  • Sometimes we were able to get further into the berry patch, opening up our reach so much more. My oldest son was really good at this! 
  • Gently pull the dark berries. If they come off easily, they should be ready to pick (or eat!).
  • Watch for insect damage, spiders, etc. Some might look good from a distance but should really be left for animal life. 
  • If picking berries on someone else's land, be sure to have permission and it's nice to share with them. We left a couple of cups with my grandparents before we left. 
  • Check with the local ordinances on berry picking in parks and public spaces. Most allow for berry picking, but it's helpful to know before you go. 
  • Be respectful of side of the road picking. I don't mind if people pick a few berries on our roadside as they walk past our canes, but when they bring along a bucket, I feel the need to remind them that we'd like to eat our berries too. 
  • While out, watch for what other berries will be ready soon. We had a few mulberries while out (finishing up the season in the next several days). We also saw blackberries forming so know we can come back to eat these later on. 

We had a great afternoon out on a cool summer day! My oldest who sometimes resists our outdoor activities was an excellent picker and a joy to be around for black raspberry picking! I wondered if he had a future in foraging! Remember your hands will most likely get stained momentarily, but it eventually washes off. We enjoyed our walk to the raspberry patch, we were able to see many different trees and plants, and we saw and heard the may birds nearby. To me, picking wild berries is a fun way to connect with nature and enjoy time with my family. Plus, it's yummy! After we ate plenty and shared some, we had about 4 cups left from our short pick. We made a raspberry pie, supplementing with blueberries to meet the fruit quota. Yummy! We also have made fruit leather or just used the berries in a fruit salad. See tips I had for berry picking in the InMiddlebury magazine in July!