Dear Neighbor,

Do you have a wild blackberry? No I am not speaking of the phone… uhm…the fruit. Do you live around open fields? Perhaps you never even thought of it, but if you have uncut fields around you, there is a good chance you live around free food. Free food is a big plus in preparedness and I always want to know where it is!

In many areas either wild blackberries or blueberries grow in scrubby fields. For those of us who have blackberries, it’s a love/hate relationship. They spread underground, grow fast and their thorns make them nearly impossible to destroy and  deal with unless you have heavy gloves. Like, metal gloves! Those thorns are ruthless! . We control them where we can and enjoy them where the space they are growing is wild and unused.

Wild blackberries are a bit tarter than their sweet cousin and sometimes even bitter, but you can use them the same way as the store bought berries. Sugar turns them into great gems making great juice, jam, pie filling or sprinkled on salads. They have a healthy amount of vitamin C and potasium and even give us an anti-oxidant boost. (Rule of thumb: dark vegetables and fruits contain higher anti-oxidants)

About this time of year, in most of the U.S., wild berries start blooming. As you walk or drive along the country and suburban roads, look for the  tiny white flower clusters on 4 ft high branches. That will be your sign for blackberries.

The berries will be ripe sometime in June or early July, depending where you live. You need to let them turn completely black or they will be nasty. There is no free lunch with wild berries.  The thorns on those things are killer but the reward is great.

You can create a denim sleeve to put over your arms with the cut off pant leg of an old pair of jeans. Tie the wrist and upper arm tight to keep the sleeve on your arm and pick with care. As with other berries, the keeping time is short, but a bit longer than let’s say, raspberries. Freeze, can or eat within a day.

Wild blueberries are the ultimate gem of wild North American berries. They are actually higher in anti-oxidants than farm grown and once you find them growing, protect them with all you’ve got!

 I remember picking wild blueberries, as a child. My mother would send all us kids out with small margarine containers and tell us we couldn’t come back to the house until we had them full of berries. A promise of blueberry- buttermilk pancakes was our reward.

Blueberries have small closed white to pink bubble looking flowers. They are often found in scrubby, sandy areas. Blueberry picking will rarely draw blood, like blackberry brambles do. Their taste is no different than store bought and their only fault is the fruit is small and picking can be tedious and hard on older fingers.  Blueberries can’t keep long either, so freeze or can them as quickly as possible.

Now is the time to start scoping out the neighborhood and homestead, so you know where you will find berries in a month or so. Look for those white flowers that are the tell tale signs of your future harvest. Let me know what you find.

Happy Homesteading, S