What’s your best pick?

There are wild blackberries and then there are wild blackberries

Posted 8/14/19

Those who know about our native Pacific Blackberries greedily hope you’ll fall for the ubiquitous Himalayas.

Anywhere there’s sun, you’ll be distracted by Himalayas’ fat clots of berries beckoning from the sides of sidewalks and highway median strips.

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What’s your best pick?

There are wild blackberries and then there are wild blackberries

Posted

Those who know about our native Pacific Blackberries greedily hope you’ll fall for the ubiquitous Himalayas.

Anywhere there’s sun, you’ll be distracted by Himalayas’ fat clots of berries beckoning from the sides of sidewalks and highway median strips.

With a bucket or sack, you’ll tote home so much fruit, you’ll run out of uses for it: pies, jam, muffins, syrup, cocktails. Unmolested, a patch of Himalayas gets bigger every year and keeps fruiting from August through September.

In Himalaya thickets, which rear up on stout canes, there be doughty thorns, gnarly and sharp enough to leave scars you can casually flash when telling others dominion over the earth is not for wimps.

Watery Himalaya juice will ruin your shirt and stain your palms pink to prove to credulous folks the price you paid for the bounty you grandly gift to lovers and strangers alike.

Pacific Blackberry pickers greedily hope Himalayas keep you happy because Pacific fanciers are stingy and secretive. There may be one in your circle of friends, but they won’t let on, shrugging and mumbling if the subject ever comes up.

Unlike Himalaya heroes, pickers of the Pacifics hide their dark purple juice stains, in hopes you won’t recall seeing their car parked at the verge of a forest road, put two and two together and come up with “berry patch.” If you do, say nothing and never go there (without checking your friend is out of town) if you value the friendship. Most Pacific pickers don’t even tell their siblings about a good patch, so your sleuthing will feel invasive or maybe like betrayal.

Not easy to find, are these mother lodes of tart temptation. Less common in town, they grow where spindly vines crawl closer to the ground in clear-cuts, along fence-lines and blow-downs and over slash piles.

Hot August days bring on ripe wild Pacific Blackberries: smaller, less seedy, less watery and with a flavor Chef James Beard said was “the uncrowned king of all wild berries.”

Once they’ve spirited home the little mound of wild blackberries that result from a diligent afternoon in bear country, a Pacific Blackberry picker might give you a piece of Pane d’Amore seedy toast with a smear of jam, but they’re not going to be handing you a whole jar of jam unless they want something from you.

If you get a whole Pacific Blackberry pie from someone who is not your mother or child, you may be in deeper than you think with this person. Proceed carefully.

And if you do get a whole jar of Pacific Blackberry jam, hide it from the kids (in the same place you stash your tin of Cougar Gold cheddar) and save it for the grey days of winter, when wild blackberry jam is the closest thing to liquid sunshine.

It’s not that wild Pacific pickers are impervious to the profligate charms of Himalaya berries.

Himalaya are, in a promiscuous way, satisfying-ish, but mostly if they’re your first encounter with wild fruit and you don’t mind eating gravelly mouthfuls of seeds with mild berry flavor.

Himalaya are okay, kinda, if you can ignore the fact that birds and rodents leave a huge percentage of those watery seed-bombs on the vine, drying out to get blown onto the next roadside or sunny lot to lure the next year’s suckers.

Himalaya will do, until you get a mouthful of powerfully-flavorous wild Pacific Blackberries. When that happens, you’ll be embarking on a stealthy life of secrets, deception and hoarding. And it will be worth it.

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