They stalk you from behind the backyard fence. They creep along your running path and circle the parking lot of your coffee shop. But don't be creeped out — Northwest blackberries are following you with delicious, nutritious possibilities!
These small purple gems are an invasive species, but each August and September they offer a sweet treat, free of charge. Here are some tips for collecting and using them.
- Tempting as it may be to pick berries right next to roads, try to find bushes at least 50 feet from major roadways and trails. The delicate skin of blackberries easily absorbs pollution or “dustings” from dogs.
- Avoid bushes near dead patches of brush on the ground, as these can indicate pesticide spraying.
Casual collecting requires only a container, but serious escapades can be improved with some additional preparation.
- Long sleeves, gloves and pants will protect you from thorns on the brambles.
- A small step-ladder will provide extra reach for high branches.
- Large, shallow containers will keep fruit from getting smashed under its own weight.
- Employ some kids — they make great pickers!
Blackberries are a great natural source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and numerous antioxidants, making them a perfect anytime snack.
- Always wash the berries, but not until you’re ready to use them. Waiting to put them under water will keep them fresher for longer.
- Too many? Freeze, jar or jam them for later.
Washington’s bounty is ripe for the picking. Go snag some of your “berry” own!