I am fortunate enough to live in Northern Michigan where Mother Nature is generous enough to provide us with several options for berry picking. In my yard we have both wild blackberry and raspberry patches that provide abundant harvests year after year. These plants seem to thrive on neglect and produce enough berries to make jams, pies and other yummy treats.
Know what you Have
It is important to know what kind of berry patch you are picking in. If you try to pick blackberries thinking you are in a raspberry patch you will be in for one very sour surprise.
Blackberries are a much larger, more stout plant. The stems are much larger, more woody with large thorns. The leaves are large with thorns as well. The berries are much larger and have very distinct ‘fruits’ that are joined together to make one larger fruit. These fruits are the size of a thimble once mature and are a dark, rich black color. The smaller red fruits look like ripe raspberries, but if you try and eat one you will quickly realize your mistake. Blackberries also have a much larger seed in the berries when compared to wild raspberries.
Wild raspberries, on the other hand, are a much friendlier plant. While they do have thorny branches they are not as painful as the blackberries. The stems are less woody and the thorns lean closer to small thread. The leaves feel more hairy than thorny and are smaller than the blackberries. The fruits are smaller, too. They appear more smooth rather than having the distinct ‘bulbs’ that the blackberry is made of. The seeds are smaller and less prominent. Wild raspberries also ripen about 1-2 weeks earlier than their thornier cousin.
Once you have picked your berries (I suggest bribing the neighborhood kids – give them a bucket to fill for you to use, then give them each a smaller bucket that they can eat) you have so many options. I make jam with the berries. Sometimes pies, and I even make some preserves to put in a very popular gift basket for my friends around the holidays.
Once you have prepared your preserves, tie a nice card on with the recipe. Add the dry ingredients into a basket (or even a mason jar), add a ribbon and you have a wonderful handmade gift that is sure to put a smile on someone’s face.
Here is the recipe I use for my Raspberry bars.filling: 4c fresh raspberries (or blackberries) 4c White Sugar 1c Water Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Boil, stirring constantly until well thickened. The mixture should evenly coat the back of a metal spoon without breaking. Set aside to cool. crust: 1pkg yellow (or white) cake mix 3/4c butter, melted 2 eggs 1c rolled oats 3/4 c brown sugar 1t cinnamon 1t vanilla Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Set aside 1 1/2 c of crust mixture. Spread remaining in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan, packing down evenly. Spread the cooled raspberry mixture evenly over the bottom crust. Crumble small pieces of the remaining crust mixture evenly over the raspberry mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350° F or until golden brown. Cool completely before slicing.
Visit Home and Garden Welcome for papers, ribbons, stickers and other items to add your handmade recipe card to your delicious gift!
Happy gardening and creating!