Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How To Pick Wild Blackberries and Raspberries

Ripening blackberries

Ripening blackberries!

During summer, nature begins to offer a bounty all its own, free for the picking – wild berries! And if you’re new to wild berry picking, the best place to start is with wild blackberries and raspberries. They’re unmistakable, easy to pick, delicious, and can readily be found in summer.

Here are some tips for taking advantage of wild blackberry and raspberry season in your area.

About Wild Blackberries and Raspberries

There are many, many types of wild edible berries, but blackberries and raspberries are by far the easiest to identify. Growing in those telltale tiny clusters, they don’t have any lookalikes and are all safe to eat.

White flower blooming on berry vine

Spring berry blooms.

Blackberries and raspberries are very similar, and they’re picked (and enjoyed!) in the same ways. Blackberries are always black when ripe while raspberries can be red or black, depending on the variety. For our purposes, the only real difference is that raspberries are hollow and cup shaped, while blackberries are solid to the stem.

With a little practice, you’ll quickly learn to identify the plants as well. They have three compound leaves that are oval-shaped and toothed along the edges. The wild plants are very thorny (cultivated varieties can be thornless) and usually grow in brambles.

I like to scope out my picking-spots in the spring, when the plants are covered in small white blooms that are easily spotted from a distance. The berries ripen in May or June in warmer climates, and July in cooler climates, and can be picked over several weeks.

Farm fence covered in blackberries

Farm fence covered in blackberries.

Blackberry and Raspberry Picking Tips

As you head out with your pails and baskets, follow these tips for successful wild berry picking:

  • Where to Find Berries: Look along sunny roadways, fences, and in overgrown meadows. Berries are especially common at the edge of wooded areas, which means you can easily spot them along the sides of country highways and around the edges of pastures and farm fields. Be sure to ask permission before picking berries on private property.
  • Protect Yourself: In addition to being thorny, blackberries and raspberries tend to grow in wild, overgrown areas that are frequently inhabited by unpleasant companions such as wasps, snakes, mosquitoes, chiggers, and poison ivy. Wear closed shoes, long pants, and long sleeves to protect your skin from stings and bites. Gloves are also helpful but tend to snag on the thorns; I usually just accept a few scratched fingers as the cost of doing business.
  • Ripe berries held in hand

    Ripe berries.

  • Make Noise: People aren’t the only ones who enjoy blackberries. Be sure to make plenty of noise to alert other nibbling critters, such as bears and snakes, of your presence.
  • Pick Only Ripe Berries: Blackberries and raspberries don’t ripen after they’re picked, so only take the best ones. Ripe berries are large, plump, deeply colored, and easily slip off the stem. If you have to tug, it isn’t ripe. I always find it helpful to taste a few berries here and there to make sure I’m doing a good job finding the ripest, sweetest ones!
  • Carry a Container: Drop your berries into a shallow bucket or basket. I like to use a lightweight plastic bowl or colander. It’s OK to fill the container, but don’t pack them in or press them down. Since the plants are so thorny, give everybody their own bucket, so that you don’t have to detangle yourself every time your hands are full.
  • Be Patient: Often the best berries are hidden in the middle of the plant. If you take the time to search out the ripe ones, you may find that you can get all the berries you want without taking more than a few steps.
  • Wild berry cobbler

    Wild berry cobbler!

  • After Picking: Keep your berries in the shade and get them into the fridge or a cooler as soon as possible. They’ll keep for a few days, possibly a week, in the fridge. Don’t wash them until right before you’re going to use them. To wash, rinse the berries in cool water, discarding any rotten or squashed ones.
  • Salt Water Bath: Some veteran berry pickers like to soak the fresh berries for an hour or two in salt water (one cup per gallon), to dislodge any little grubs that might be hiding inside. I’ve never done this and never spotted any worms; but then again, maybe I’ve inadvertently eaten some extra protein!
  • Eating Berries: I tend to eat berries almost as fast as I pick, but if any fresh berries actually make it indoors, there are all sorts of ways to enjoy them. Sprinkle fresh berries on cereal or salads, make jam, enjoy cobblers and pies, and freeze the leftovers for smoothies or a midwinter treat. Blackberries and raspberries are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, so other than a possible stomachache, they really can’t be overeaten.

Further Information

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16 Comments on “How To Pick Wild Blackberries and Raspberries”

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  1. Amy Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks! I live in Rohnert Park, CA and wild blackberries grow around clusters of trees or along the creeks, and it was helpful to learn how to tell ripe from unripe.

  2. tai Says:
    January 26th, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I have a vine look like raspberry vine but the stem very thin it crawl on the ground. it very thorny. the leave look just like raspberry. last year it has two fruits on it. I afraid to eat it, could it be a raspberry? I have a raspberry vine it stem a lot thicker than the wild on the fence. could raspberry stem 1/8 of an inch? it growth close to the ground or on the ground. it does grow like the real raspberry, the only thing is so thin stem. it could not support it weight. could it be raspberry?

  3. Marianne Says:
    July 19th, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    It may be a new baby raspberry shoot from off of the main plant (underground runner). Raspberries do spread. Also, one website said that there are no poisonous raspberry look-alikes. You can dig under to see if it is connected. My plants have many shoots. In fact, they grew in the wild on their own.

  4. thebrokelifeorg Says:
    July 25th, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    This is a great guide! I always remember to make a lot of noise when I’m berry picking! Can’t chance a run in with a snake! Eeek!

    We live in Napa, and wild blackberries are everywhere right now! So yummy!

  5. Maria Briggman Says:
    August 25th, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Are the red berries resembling the black ones on the same vine in ripening stage to turn black? Or are they edible in red?

  6. Cathal Says:
    November 20th, 2014 at 11:04 am

    A very useful guide. Many thanks. I never knew raspberries could be black!

    I live in Ireland, so we have no snakes or bears to frighten off or to frighten us. We do like to make a lot of noise when picking berries, however, to chase away the leprechauns! 😉

  7. Judy Says:
    June 16th, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I have found a bunch of wild blackberries growing on my property and would love to use them but the seeds are so hard and huge…are u supposed to seed them first or just eat or bake with the seeds in? I have bought pie before and the seeds were left in,,,tasted great but the seeds are annoying :)

  8. Judith Jones Says:
    June 25th, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    I do believe we may have both! We have tons still green, some pink, some red. We’ve picked about three quarts so far. Guess I should have read this article first! The berries we picked so far I put into a colander, and rinced them. Once drained, I put them into freezer bags, taking the air out of the bag. Sure hope I didn’t ruin them, and the thought of eating critters is nauseating! I will probably pick again Sunday, but will follow these directions.

  9. Larry Says:
    June 26th, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Purchased a few acres recently. Heading out this morning to pick a few and googled the protocol if any. Great article. Looking forward to not having to make a store run for smoothies or cobblers now!

  10. Barbara Says:
    July 7th, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    We have several bushes that have sprung up along our fence line and are bearing fruit. With the confidence this article gives us we’ll be picking them when they ripen in a few days. Thanks.

  11. Curtis Fondell Says:
    July 10th, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Can you plant and grow Blackberries? If so what are the best ways to start this ?

  12. Mary Lou Says:
    July 12th, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Just this month I found blackberry brambles in my back yard. I found a recipe for blackberry- vanilla infused vodka. As you read this, I am making it in a gallon jug for holiday giving,.. and for me;-). Looking forward to enjoying the ‘fruits’ of my labor!

  13. Barbara Thomas Says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I use long gardening gloves with the finger tips cut out to harvest blackberries. This protects my arms as I reach into the vines but I can still feel the berries.

  14. tom gajan Says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Grew up on a farm here in western pa. Mom canned so picking berries was annual, usually about 20 gallons. Here in western pa we have a mixture of the india and european strains, and some ground growing strains, but believe me they are EVERYWHERE. Just remember long sleeves will keep the thorns away, picking from underneath also helps. I pick 5 to 10 gallons a year. After cleaning, I freeze mine in freezer bags, also make pies, cobbler, and jelly.

  15. Melissa Says:
    July 16th, 2015 at 10:33 am

    We stumbled upon a few massive blackberry plants that were hiding on our property and are so excited!!
    I have a ton of questions, but right now I am wondering if it is better to pick the ripe berries early in the day?
    I have read that snakes and bears (bears we do not have!!) but I wonder if birds eat them and if so do they eat them early?
    Although as prickly as these things are I would hate to see the poor bird that tried to get at “Our” Blackberry bushes!! :)

  16. Arrah Says:
    July 31st, 2015 at 1:07 am

    I would love to get the recipe for blackberry infused vodka that Mary Lou mentioned in her comment. Can someone send it to me please?

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