2017-08-12 / Outdoors

INSIDE THE OUTDOORS

Berry pickin’ time is here

We are almost halfway through August, and the change in calendar brings with it changes in nature.

The katydids and crickets now sing their nightly choruses. Crows and blue jays have a different song, one that reminds me that hunting season is just around the corner.

Sweet corn is ripe, as are summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and other delicacies from the garden.

In our wild areas, another summer delicacy is getting ripe for the picking, one that doesn’t need cultivated. Mother Nature grows blackberries for us.

In many areas, this is prime blackberry picking. With the rain that we have had this summer this year’s blackberry crop is one of the best in a long time. The berries are plump and juicy.

If you’re a novice, please be advised that you should protect yourself from the thorns. I encourage wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

Good blackberry patches can be found walking our gated forestry roads or driving along most of our country roads. Blackberries need lots of sunlight, so look for openings.

There are several different species in Pennsylvania. Three common ones are the Pennsylvania blackberry, Allegheny blackberry, and the smooth blackberry. I believe the most common one we have is the Pennsylvania blackberry.

This species grows in our forest openings, clear-cuts, alongside roads and in old succession fields. The berries are normally somewhat longer than they are wide, and they are the most flavorful off all the blackberries that I have tasted.

I have occasionally seen a second species of blackberry growing in our area. I believe it to be the Allegheny blackberry. The canes are much taller and wider. Often the brambles of this blackberry are over my head.

The fruit is also larger and rounder, but the flavor, although sweet, has more of a sour note than our most common blackberry.

We also have another common species of blackberry known as the dewberry. Dewberries grow in old fields and sprawl along the ground. The berries look similar to those of their erect blackberry cousins, but are at ankle level. Dewberry can tear at your ankles when you’re walking in shorts through old fields.

Just about everywhere I’ve traveled, I have come across blackberries – even in Central and South America. The canes there are larger and the fruit is much larger than what we have here, but our blackberries have them beat on flavor.

I have also had a species of raspberry that the locals occasionally grow around their houses in the Amazon region of Ecuador and Peru.

Regardless of where you live, good luck berry picking!

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