Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle

Foraging for Fruit

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Himalayan blackberries

Himalayan blackberries

Every year, we go with a group of friends that live near a greenbelt to a spot with tons of wonderful berries. Last year we got like 10 pints of  berries. We made blackberry cobbler, and all of us had enough to take home and freeze.  This year, only three of us could go, so we thought we’d all have even more per family! I planned on making jam, freezing, and baking. I asked D to take pictures the whole way to document the day.

Heading into the greenbelt for our foraging adventure! Note my giant bag ready for filling. Optimist!

Heading into the greenbelt for our foraging adventure! Note my giant bag ready for filling. Optimist!

These are all the berries we picked last year. See why I was excited?

Last year’s haul – see why I was excited?

In Seattle, and I imagine over much of the rest of the country, late summer means blackberry picking. The Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) is violently invasive, and takes over roadsides, empty lots, and natural areas. The only benefit is that they produce some pretty tasty fruits.

Rubus armeniacus leaves.

Rubus armeniacus leaves.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we also have 2 other blackberries, the invasive evergreen blackberry (Rubus laciniatus) and the native trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus). Both of these have delicious fruits, but are generally less common than the Himalayan, and don’t produce fruits in the same quantities.

Rubus laciniatus - evergreen blackberry. This one has deeply divided leaves and purple stems.

Rubus laciniatus – evergreen blackberry. This one has deeply divided leaves and purple stems.

Rubus ursinus - trailing or California blackberry. This one has trifoliate leaves, and thin whitish stems. It's generally on the ground, or winding through shrubs.

Rubus ursinus – trailing blackberry. This one has trifoliate leaves, and thin whitish stems. It’s generally on the ground, or winding through shrubs.

Well. That bounty from last year was nary to be found this weekend. Because of the warm spring and summer, all fruits have been earlier than normal this year. Up until last week there was probably a boatload of perfect fruit on the vine. But last Thursday we had heavy rain, it lasted all day, and it seems to have destroyed the whole dang crop.

It's starting to dawn on us that our trip may not be as fruitful (ha) as we had hoped, but we weren't ready to give up yet!

Our first spot – here it started to dawn on us that our trip may not be as fruitful (ha) as we had hoped, but we weren’t ready to give up yet. We’re only halfway to the best patch, it must be better there!

We started at one spot (above), had no luck, went to the next and the next, and after 2 hours we had just over a pint of acceptable berries. Darn! They were either squishing in our hands as we picked them (over ripe) or too hard, or mummified with rot. Fruit flies were even on some of the best looking fruits, a sure sign that they were starting to ferment.

A common sight this weekend - what look like good berries are starting to rot on the vine. The other berries probably won't ripen this year. What a bust!

A common sight this weekend – what looked at first like good berries were starting to rot on the vine. The other berries probably won’t ripen this year. What a bust!

We did have a lovely hike, of course. And with what appears to be divine intervention, we found plums. Tons of plums! In the greenbelt there’s a little grove of plum trees, probably an old orchard, that have all reverted. Normally there are one or two plums dangling within reach and a few rotting on the ground.

There were yellow and red plums. Most of the red ones were mush, so I mainly picked yellow ones. (Note the trailing blackberry in the shot).

There were yellow and red plums. Most of the red ones were mush, so I mainly picked yellow ones. (Note the trailing blackberry on the right). Most of these were bad, too, but I rummaged around until I filled a pint.

Saturday there were a bunch within reach (with the help of a little light shaking), and many on the ground looked like they had JUST fallen. I scoured the lot for the best plums, and got about a pint. They aren’t big, but are quite delicious. (I have some pears that I bought on a trip to the country the next day, and I’m brainstorming what to do with them both.)

Here's the bounty from this year! I'm not about to complain, they are still great, but quite a difference from last year.

Here’s the bounty from this year! I’m not about to complain, they are still great, but quite a difference from last year.

We ended up making a smaller cobbler than normal, and had to include frozen berries plus a couple apricots and plums, just for good measure. It was delicious! And since there were only 3 of us, we even had leftovers. I’m sorry we won’t be enjoying the fruits of our labors for the rest of the year, though. I may see if I can buy some berries at the farmer’s market this year, because blackberry jam is my very favorite.

Still worth it... we made "kitchen sink" cobbler - blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, apricot, plum. Topped with ice cream... yum!

Still worth it… we made “kitchen sink” cobbler – blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, apricot, plum. Topped with ice cream… yum!

One thought on “Foraging for Fruit

  1. Pingback: Spiced Pear Jelly – a delicious comedy of errors | Soil and Cellar

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