Fresh berries — pick ’em while you can
The spiders spin their webs above fruit-laden vines. Watch out for wasps and bees. Gnats could invade your space. And so could mosquitoes. The foliage could hide ticks, chiggers or mites. Worst of all, you could stumble onto a snake or invade the privacy of poison ivy vines.
All that nastiness aside, it’s still late spring and time to prepare to chase after blackberries, red raspberries, black raspberries and wineberries that will soon ripen.
Picking the fruit for jams and jellies or just to eat as you go through a prickly patch is worth the trouble caused by the brambles, overrun ground, standard thorns and prickly plants where the juicy morsels are found.
Growing in farm fences, alongside sunny rural roadways, on the edges of small stands of trees or in overgrown areas near farm pastures, the pleasures of eating these berries can overcome the displeasures of getting to their vines. The succulent berries are worth the trouble.
Pies, cobblers or a breakfast bowl of berries, cream and a little sugar make the few scratches on your hands or a mosquito bite seem a small price to pay to pleasure a sweet tooth.
All these berries have the same sort of protection from Mother Nature; raspberries and blackberries grow in similar spots and have similar appearances. And no dangerous plants or fruits look similarly.
When found flourishing in a thicket of undisturbed brambles, all these berry plants produce fruit that is deeply and richly colored when ripe. Don’t pick green, white or thinly colored berries; none of them will ripen after being removed from the vine.
Wineberries are a deep red and practically fall off the vine when ripe. Birds and mammals also know their value, so they can be man’s competitor when hunting the fruit. Red raspberries are a rich red in color and brighter than wineberries. Black raspberries and blackberries are also deep in color when ripe and have almost the same appearance.
All of the ripe berries are plump and large enough to satisfy appetites. All are richly colored and come off the vine easily. If an individual berry has to be tugged on, it probably isn’t ripe enough.
Wineberries grow on the vine in large clusters of 6 to 12 berries and don’t all ripen together. Clusters of raspberries and blackberries usually include some immature fruit that is white, green or a thin pink.
The thicker vines of both blackberries and raspberries are spiny and can be almost impenetrable from one side or another. Wineberry vines are full of reddish-colored hairs and sturdy thorns that often win their battles with people.
Locating a plant of some size can mean filling a decent-sized basket or bucket with fruit without moving much at all. Let the birds, raccoons or foxes do their work. Just reach the berries and gather them for desserts later on.
The edges of farm fields are waiting. The sunny corners of pastures have their juicy rewards awaiting. Roadside patches of wineberries will produce fruit until just before the Fourth of July. Just beware of the critters that are always there. Poison ivy usually wins its battles.
But a carefully planned mission to the home of wild berry plants can be a highlight of the spring or early summer.