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Blackberries in Sonoma?

I've been reading on here about people foraging for blackberries in Sonoma. We're headed out there tomorrow. Any choice spots for picking? I must say we don't know Sonoma all that well - we're from Berkeley - and will be wine tasting around Healdsburg. Thanks!

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  1. We also hope to go more deeply into the Russian River valley and perhaps also Alexander Valley. I'll shape our itinerary around the blackberry bushes in any case!

    2 Replies
    1. re: coriander

      How'd it go? Saturday I had the pleasure of a blackberry cobbler made from berries my friend picked in his Russian River Valley vineyard. The berries were indeed small, about half the size of last year's, but very concentrated and sweet. Our host was another grower in RRV but a bit further north and closer to the river and he said that his berries were not only small but not that tasty this year. He said that the birds weren't eating the little ones. He said that the bigger and sweeter berries were higher up and in the middle of the thickets, and glancing at my bare arms he didn't recommend me trying to pick any immediately. But maybe that will help you select your spot when you find a place to pick.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        We ended up not going last weekend - had an unlikely case of not wanting to drink wine! Went to Marin instead. I'll definitely post again right after our trip to Sonoma, which should happen one of these weekends.

      1. I don't have any location suggestions (and if I did I might keep them to myself!). I'm sure there are plenty of spots around Berkeley too, but they likely ripen later in the summer.

        There is nothing like spending time in a patch of blackberries, soaking in the smell of hot berries, and eating them too many of them, of course. If you want to pick in quantity, a few tips:

        1. take many wide, shallow containers - if they are too deep the bottom berries are smashed. I like large, lightweight stainless bowls. Or baskets, but sometimes the baskets leak
        2. a couple pieces of cardboard will help you flatten canes and reach deep into a thicket
        3. a stepladder for reaching those high berries that amateur foragers miss
        4. long sleeves, jeans, and closed-toe shoes
        5. baby wipes to clean your hands after. Gloves ruin the berries
        6. if making jam, be sure to pick enough not-quite-ripe berries so jam will thicken

        I've only picked once so far this summer, but it is a good year. Smaller berries because we had so little spring rain, but plenty of them.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Junie D

          Thanks for those tips, here's some more, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/427200

          You can lay the stepladder across the bush to weigh it down within reach.

          1. re: Junie D

            my blackberry bushes (in my backyard in San Francisco, and sorry, I don't open it up for outside pickers:-( ) have had ripe ones for at least three weeks (they tend to ripen in stages, depending on where the sun hits the yard most), so I would think that there would be berries ready to pick in Berkeley by now as well. Lots of berries, they are a little smaller maybe, but good flavor.

            One other tip: watch for bees. At least in my yard, there are an encouraging number of bees hanging out (the berries ripen in such stages that a few flowers are still present along with mostly ripe fruit) and I've actually had a bee land on me once or twice (though haven't been stung.) one more reason to wear long sleeves etc. (though I agree not to wear gloves; soap and water does get the berry juice off my hands. And Shout actually got the berry stain out of my favorite long sleeve t after my last picking round....)

            Have fun! I love picking berries, even though I detest any form of gardening. I think it is the 'one for the container, one for the mouth' rule that makes it so much fun! (of course, I know my berries aren't sprayed...)

            yes, I am sure the lack of landscaping and prevalence of berries drives at least one neighbor crazy....but those berries make it hard for me to get motivated to put 'real' landscaping...

            1. re: Junie D

              My Berkeley berries have been ripe for almost a month, starting about the same time that tays and boysens were available in local farmer's markets. I have had a bumper crop. The canes have taken over the roof of my backyard shed. There should be patches in West Berkeley and based on a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a woman who was involved in trying to root out non-indigenous species, in the City too.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Enjoy them. I think I was basing my estimate of when berries would be ripe in Berkeley on my experience picking blackberries in Mill Valley and Sausalito for many years, where we picked in September or maybe late August in a hot year. Of course, Berkeley is a lot warmer than southern Marin.

            2. One suggestion: no matter where you go, look for berry patches along creeksides. They need the moisture. You might ask some locals in the area.