Wildlife – The Blackberry Forecast

  • Wed Jul 1st, 2020 11:03am
  • News

By Pat Neal

I thought I had died and gone to blackberry heaven! There before me like a dusting of pure white snow the white petals of the blackberry blossoms covered the ground for an acre or more. Not knowing if this could soon be the blackberry patch that dreams are made of, or if it was too good to be true.

You can’t make a pie out of blackberry blossoms any more than you can make a stew out of deer or elk tracks. You have to get the berries, or the meat and that is all part of the hunter-gatherer dilemma.

The sad fact is that all blackberry blossoms do not make berries. There are many scientific reasons for this but no one cares. If there are no berries we just move on and look for another patch.

Looking for blackberries is a year-round activity for some of us. Where likely looking spots are filed away for future reference until it’s time to pick the berries. It’s time. This year could be the big one for dedicated blackberry pickers. The berries certainly have had enough rain and now all we need is a good dose of sunshine to bring on the best crop of berries we’ve seen in decades.

By blackberries, I do not mean the oversized exotic blackberries no. We’re talking about the little wild native blackberries. Blackberries grow largest in partial shade but they are sweetest in full sun. It is almost impossible to ruin blackberries but you have to pick them first. That means you have to find a blackberry patch.

There is no better way to lose a friend or make an enemy than to pick in someone else’s blackberry patch, even by accident. I once stumbled onto an old-timer in his berry patch. Al averaged fifty gallons a year! He did not do this by sharing his berry patch with nosy kids. I just happened to see Al while looking for another berry patch but he wouldn’t accept that excuse. That’s what blackberry picking does to a person: trust no one.

In a good patch, you might pick a gallon of berries a day. Find a really good patch and you can join the hallowed ranks of the five-gallon a day club. This is an accomplishment I have only attained twice in a half a century of picking. That particular berry patch was ruined by an invasion of bears.

Bears have all of the advantages when it comes to picking berries. Bears can see in the dark so they can pick around the clock. Bears don’t take time off to go home and do stuff. They are home, doing the most important stuff. Picking berries and stuffing them down their gullet to get as fat as they can before winter. Bears are not as picky as most people about picking blackberries. They’ll eat the unripe green and red blackberries along with the black ones. Bears will munch down a hornet’s nest if they find it, leaving the surviving hornets in a foul mood if an unfortunate berry picker happens along later. There’s often very little left of a berry patch once the bears get done with it. You should find another patch.

Fortunately, our bears are not dangerous although a blackberry pickers’ hands can get so scarred up from the thorns and thistles, they can look like they got mauled by a bear. You cannot let a little thing like bears, sticker bushes, and hornets scare you out of the berry patch.

It will all be worthwhile when the blackberry pie comes out of the oven.