Saturday, July 2, 2016

Berry Picking Time!

Here in northeast Pennsylvania we are one week into the wild raspberry season. We had a mild winter and a cool wet spring so it will be a bumper crop. I picked a half gallon of berries in about two hours while on a break from mowing. 

In the early days of the picking season the first berries to ripen are what I call the "King" or "Crown" berries. The berry cluster is usually something like 5-7 berries. But there is one at the center-top that ripens first. That is why I call it the Crown berry. So if you go out to forage berries when they are first ripening, this is the only one you will get. So you might have to visit a lot of bushes to get a bucket of berries.

In the following days the rest of the cluster will ripen and you will get more berries per bush then. 

Wild raspberries are much smaller than their cultivated cousins so you have to pick hundreds and hundreds of the little berries to fill a half gallon pail. But they are free, taste great, and they get you out in the woods.

So where is the best place to look for wild raspberries? Generally they grow on the edges of woodlots and along roads. They need a good amount of sunlight, rich soil, and adequate moisture. These all exist on the margins of wild lots. I have picked gallons of berries in abandoned lots, in city parks, along hiking trails, in State Game Lands, embedded in farm hedge rows, but mostly along country roads.

I normally freeze the ones I don't eat or cook fresh in ziplock bags, one cup of berries per bag. That way I can grab however many cups of berries a recipe calls for. I will do that again this year but I am also freezing some on cookie sheets so that they are loose in the freezer bag. I intend to make a habit of making and drinking berry smoothies through most of the winter. There are great health benefits to eating all sorts of berries and I have ready access to wild black raspberries, black berries, cultivated raspberries (red), and blue berries. 

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