Blackberry season is in full swing, and there’s nothing that scratches my farm-girl-forager itch more than spending a hot July afternoon on a berry hunting walk. Blackberries are perfect for everything from cocktails to cobblers — here’s your guide to finding, harvesting, and enjoying them this summer.

Where can you find wild blackberries?

Photo by Elizabeth George from Unsplash

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m a happy gal when late July rolls around, and blackberry bushes grow wild on almost every corner. No matter where you live, though, wild blackberries (one of the most common species in North America is the Rubus allegheniensis, if you’re curious) shouldn’t be too hard to find. They’re a very distinctive berry, with a deep black or purple color once ripe, and the bushes grow most often on the edges of wooded areas or meadows. The bushes are tall and sprawling, and the berries grow and ripen in clumps. If you live in the Eastern United States, keep an eye out for dewberries, which are a close sibling of the blackberry and are just as delicious. There’s nothing to fear with wild blackberries or dewberries, either — none of their variants are toxic, so all you have to be aware of when harvesting are the thorns that naturally grow on the bush. Bring along a pair of thick gloves to avoid the thorns and a tall friend to help harvest the berries from higher up on the bush, and you’ll be all set!

How to clean wild berries

Photo by Kateryna Moskalova from Unsplash

To clean your harvest, gently toss your berries in a colander and rinse them with water. Once rinsed, I like to spread my berries out on a baking sheet and freeze them overnight, which helps kill any small bugs I accidentally brought home, as well as preserves the berries at peak ripeness for longer. To take extra precautions against bugs, you can also soak your berries for an hour or so in a saltwater bath (one gallon cold water and one cup of salt) before rinsing.

What do wild blackberries taste like?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Wild blackberries are tart, sweet, and juicy — everything you could want in a berry. Smaller berries tend to be more tart, while larger berries are often on the sweeter side. Some people even pick the leaves and boil them into tea, which is bitter but has a light botanical taste when sweetened with honey.

What to do with wild blackberries

Photo by Erol Ahmed from Unsplash

Speaking of tea, that’s only the start of the things you can do with your berries. Personally, I like to eat them straight off the vine, but if there are any that make it home, I stop at my windowsill herb garden and make blackberry-rosemary jam that can be frozen and enjoyed all year round. Here are a few other ideas to get your baking juices flowing (pun intended):

- Blackberry pie

- Blackberry-peach cobbler

- Blackberry jam (try adding mixed berries or herbs like rosemary, basil, or mint to your jam for a custom concoction)

- Blackberry pisco sours

- Blackberry lemonade

- Blackberry ricotta pizza

- Blackberry grilled cheese

The list could go on for days. Muffins, cakes, cookies, ice creams — you name it, wild blackberries are perfect for it.

Berries all across the country are in season until September, so add a blackberry-picking afternoon (or two, or three) to your summer bucket list. Trust me, there’s nothing quite as aesthetic as adding your freshly-picked berries to a sunset picnic spread.