Blackberries
Photo by runge.marius Flickr.com

We are fortunate here in the Northwest to have a great abundance of wild berries growing everywhere! They grow at different elevations and in many diverse ecosystems. If you know what you’re doing, you can find a new berry every 2 weeks between the spring and fall.

The most abundant and easiest to identify out of the over 50 kinds of edible berries in Washington is the Blackberry. Here in Washington, we have 3 different kinds of Blackberries.

 

The Creeping Blackberry

Blackberries

Our only native species is the creeping or trailing blackberry. This is a low growing vine-like plant that, as you can guess by its name, creeps along the ground. They have 3 leaflets that are toothed. The stems are small, skinny, and green. The flowers are white to pinkish with 5 petals. This is usually the first one of the three to berry, appearing during the late spring and early summer. They do have the smallest berries of the 3, but, in my opinion, are the best tasting!

 

The Cut-Leaf Blackberry

Blackberries

Moving up the list in size is the cut-leaf or evergreen blackberry. They are identifiable by their deeply serrated leaves, hence the name “cut-leaf.” They also have thicker, stouter stems than the trailing blackberry. I tend to notice this one being the last to ripen, usually in mid to late September. Also, the cluster of berries tend to ripen all at once as opposed to just a few at a time like with the Himalayan Blackberries.

 

The Himalayan Blackberry

Blackberries

Our final blackberry on the list is the largest and most prominent of the three. If you’ve lived in Washington, you have probably encountered thickets of this delectable but challenging plant on a hike, bushwhack or on the roadside. Though through most of the year this plant tends to be a literal pain in the butt (or any other part of you that gets poked), come Fall, it transforms into a bush of delicious abundance. If you find a good patch ripening, you can collect about three quarts an hour! They have five leaves that, if you draw a line down the middle, are symmetrical on either side. They also have large, stout stems, which can be colored green (new shoots) to a dark purple with large thorns all over. This one tends to berry sporadically from August through the end of September.

Blackberries

A fun simple way to incorporate these delicious treats into your life is just to eat them as you’re hiking. But a neat and fun recipe is to make them into a hot fudge like syrup you can add to breakfast or desert!

 

Blackberry Sauce Recipe

Step 1: Collect as many blackberries as you can.

Blackberries

Step 2: Mix berries with equal parts water (1 cup blackberries – 1 cup water).

Step 3: Simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Blackberries

Step 4: Add honey, ginger and any other spice to your liking.

Blackberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a quick how to video from one of our instructors, Nate Summers, on how to make this recipe at home.

As always, when harvesting any wild edible make sure you know what you’re eating. Blackberries are a good edible plant to start with, as they are easily identifiable and there are no poisonous look-a-likes.

Final quick tip: Berries ripen quicker at lower elevations. So, start low and go high if you want to maximize the harvesting season for doing other neat things like making fruit leather, jam, wine or smoothies!

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