Posted by: winteridge | August 21, 2010

Yes, I like blacks…

Stalking the wild blackberry

It is a great year for blackberries on Tug Hill, so I thought I would head up there for a few days and pick a few quarts, just like the ol’ days.  Right!  Ya can’t go back. It has been a few years since I have tried any serious blackberry hunting, and they have changed and I have changed.  It is obvious that blackberry picking does not improve with age, even though thinking about it does seem to improve: you forget all the bad parts.

Though the wild berries are long and black and fat and juicy, the briars are also much bigger and more numerous than I remember.  The best berries are way back in there, just out of arm’s reach, then the briars grab you around the wrist and arm like some medieval torture instrument, and if you pull back, they wrap around you, and those largest berries drop off and disappear.  Even those pretty green leaves have rows of long sharp briars hidden on their bottom side, and they will just wrap around your arms and legs and pull, dragging you in where the bigger briars can reach you.  Don’t try to fight them!

Then the biggest and finest berries I found were along the roads where the windmills were built a few years back, and lots of briars later grew in.  Except that they built the roads by bulldozing trees and rocks and dirt back into the swamp, and there is no walking into there.  There are huge holes filled with water and weeds, and dead trees lying 6 feet above ground, most of them rotted enough so you can’t walk on them.  It is tough to hold onto nearby trees and pick berries with one hand, so you try to stand on the sloping ground and pick with both hands, then suddenly lose your balance and start walking downhill backward.  You reach out to grasp something to save you, and grab…briars.  Briars with long sharp thorns.  Don’t laugh, you may be 70 some day.

And we found out years ago that you need both hands to harvest black or blueberries.  You just don’t pick with one hand and hold a berry basket in the other.  One stumble and all your work is gone.  I discovered that a great emergency container is a gallon milk jug.  Wash it out and cut a rectangular hole in the upper side, across from the handle.  Then you can tie a rope thru the handle, or attach it to your belt in front, and you can easily pick with both hands, or use one hand to fend off the briars.  Before milk jugs, we used a metal pail that honey came in, and it would hold 2 quarts or so, and had a bail to attach to your belt.  Now I have one of those plastic pails that are sold at the blueberry farms, holds about 5 or 6 quarts, and that works well, but one has to guard it carefully when stumbling and falling thru the briars.

Those wild berries were great this year, sweet and juicy.  Though I was not able to stock the freezer for winter, I did get enough for a few pies, along with a number of briar scratches, but hey, those are healing nicely.  Who knows when I will get to do it again?  I know, I could go to the commercial berry farm and pick-I think they even remove the briars for you there, but it is just not the same.



  1. If you have a good pie recipe, please share it with us.

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