The Adelaide Hills are full of blackberries right now. Big, juicy and flavoursome berries free to anyone who doesn’t mind being spiked repeatedly in the hands and having their clothes pulled and torn while picking them. This is just part of the fun of the harvest. It reminds me a bit of the kids game ‘Operation’, where you have a pair of tweezers and need to pull out the different bones without touching the sides or the buzzer goes off. You feel a great sense of achievement picking the berries without touching any other part of the plant. You know straight away if you have touched anything as the buzzer in this case is the spikey thorns.
The spikes are the least of your problems, the real danger to picking them is making sure the plants haven’t been doused in poison. Blackberries are a weed of national significance. They are on the hit list of councils, national parks and private land owners – but with approximately 9 million hectares of it across Australia it physically can’t all be sprayed.
Try to pick them on private land and talk to the person who looks after the land about how they are managed to know if the berries are safe to eat. This patch above was like a wall and was taller than me and fairly deep. I harvested along the edge. If the patch was shorter you can beat a ladder down or a piece of timber on top to create more edge to harvest from. Take a little hook to pull out any bunches hanging just out of reach.
Stay away from patches growing along roadsides as the probability is higher that these would be sprayed by councils. Anyhow, these wouldn’t be as good as those berries would be more dusty from the passing cars. Apparently, a dye is used so you can tell if it’s been sprayed recently. The spray is said to smell like kerosene so stay away if you smell this or anything unusual. Another tell tale sign someone has been poisoning it is if the branches have been slashed back or leaves are dying back.
Blackberries don’t ripen after they are picked so make sure you pick ripe fruit. It’s ripe when it’s all black and shiny. Don’t pick the fruit that looks a little dried out, it’s old. I don’t mind a bit of tartness so I’ll also pick the ones with a few pinkish cells. Use a baking tray or large shallow container when collecting so the fruit doesn’t get squashed. The fruit freezes well for use throughout the year. It can also be made into jam and wine amongst other things.