HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Wild blackberries?

I'm not sure if this is the right forum to post this question in - but here goes.
I'm currently living in France and have noticed that the forest around our village has all sorts of blackberry bushes. I'd love to go pick some and make a nice tart or something, but I"m a little hesitant about picking wild berries.

They look just like normal blackberries - like raspberries, but black - and I can't find any info on the Internet about anything that looks similar being poisonous -- but do you know of anything? Is this a good idea?

Secondly, then, does anyone have an idea for a simple summer blackberry dish?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In Oregon blackberries are all over the place. They are great in jam, pies, on ice cream, use in scones, etc.

      1. Cobblers, crumbles, pies, muffins, quick jams, sauces, ...

        1. We are in London and picked our first wild blackberry harvest yesterday evening. I returned today to nibble on some more. I made chocolate and blackberry muffins and also a black berry cloufouti last night. Must remember to eat remainders tomorrow.

          1. Blackberries are wild in Northern Cal too. Grow on my father in law's property. If you can pick enough to use in a dessert, use in anything that you use raspberries in.

            I love the idea of roast duck with a blackberry sauce.

            1. there actually is a small difference between black raspberries and blackberries, though it likely doesn't make much difference in recipes. if the center pulls out when picking, its a black raspberry. wild berries/rustic cobbler. ours are just now gone but we cobbled and gobbled earlier this month.

              1 Reply
              1. re: silverhawk

                Also, black raspberries have a whitish cast and substance between the seed pods, whereas blackberries do not.

              2. In they are away from areas which have been sprayed, go for it. Blackberries are tasty on cereal or frozen non-dairy dessert, in fruit salad, smoothies, or pie.

                1. The ones I've had from a forest in the south of Poland are smaller and much more intense than agribusiness blackberries. Enjoy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                    The wild ones in western Washington are also smaller than the ones my father grew in his garden.

                    1. re: lgss

                      In Washington, the big Himalayan blackberries are feral - a domestic variety that spreads like a weed. With large canes that can arch up to 8' or more, they quickly filling untended lots and corners of parks. On some trails I take a folding pair of garden clippers to cut the canes back. But they are good to eat. The native varieties may be more intense in flavor, but the big ones make up for it in quantity.

                      At least in the Pacific NW, all berries of this general raspberry type are edible - the blackberries, salmon berries, thimble berries. Huckleberries, blueberries, salal are also fine. In general anything red, yellow, blue, black are ok, though some may be mealy or insipid. I'd have to double check the books, but I think white is the main color to avoid.

                  2. My wife has nurtured the wild raspberries and wild strawberries we found on our property when we built our home about twenty five years ago. Each year we enjoy everything that the deer and birds don't consume (forget about netting or other barriers; they're smarter than we are) and she makes everything from pie to cobbler, blintzes to turnovers; you name it. If you can stuff it full of berries, she makes it. If you're concerned about the foods your considering being dangerous for some reason, check with the local people. They'll know more about what you're dealing with than any of us could possibly be. Just pick a few and show them around. You don't even have to tell anybody where your "stash" is located.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: todao

                      Venison makes a fine meal especially when berry fed!

                    2. Made some awesome blackberry wine a couple of years ago.

                      1. The "wild blackberries" of the U.S. are typically feral hybrids spread by birds. In the genetic mixing, some may have reverted to more species-like parents, but they are all good. I know of no berry that looks like a blackberry that would be toxic. (Pokeberries, which do not look like blackberries, of course, are toxic.)
                        Google "blackberry" and pick up a botanical description of the plant. You will have no trouble identifying it--the canes, the general leaf shape, and the blowy pinkish/whitish blossoms that look like wild roses. But if you want to be sure, ask a neighbor.
                        I've picked blackberries in the U.S. West, Midwest, and East. They weren't significantly different from berries I've picked wild in central Italy. So I presume your French berries would be fine.
                        And as for using them, eating out of hand, with cream or in a pie or galette, or as a shortcake are all good. And they make wonderful jams and jellies.

                        1. Pie! We've got some very prolific blackberry bushes in Santa Cruz, and a friend and I made two beautiful pies last week. Mmm.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: operagirl

                            You're breaking my heart. Teresa Lust, by the way, in her wonderful book "Pass the Polenta" has a pie recipe that everyone remembers as an apple pie recipe. It is, in fact, a wild blackberry recipe and it is very good.

                          2. I haven't picked them in years, but I did. I would often go to Lake County around Angwin,and Clear Lake and pick berries. This time of year they're all over.

                            They fields, fence lines, dried up creeks are loaded about this time to August. I'd pick them and make some of the best blackberry jam ever. I also would make tarts, little pies with cream cheese, and then also cookies. Just be careful when you pick them. If you have small baskets they work best, too many in one container and they smash.

                            Of course my drive home was about 2 1/2 hours, so that didn't help.

                            1. How about a blackberry-yogurt tart?

                              The recipe is from Baking With Julia and might be online, but I can post or email it if you're interested. :)

                              1. Keep in mind that blackberries grow in brambles. Wear protective clothing, and it's a good idea to wear gloves. If they are heavy gloves, cut the fingers off. In other words, you DON'T want to wear shorts and a sleeveless top.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Sharuf

                                  Blackberry bushes are tame compared to raspberries.
                                  We used to pick wild berries and just eat them with milk and a little sugar. I really like to make pound caked with the berries on top and whipped cream.
                                  mmmm mmmmm

                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                    As far as we are concerned, the only good blackberries are the ones on someone else's property. They're insanely invasive. Our first rural property was six acres and I estimated that one acres was above my head in blackberries. Used to threaten to ask for a property tax reduction for that reason. We lived on one property that was riverfront and were victims of a 100 year flood. There were blackberry roots that laid exposed to the air with no water for months and months and they sprouted anyway. I love eating them but never, never on my property. The horses did enjoy plucking the berries out however.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Wow they don't grow like that here. Most are about waist high in our neck of the woods.

                                      1. re: Fritter

                                        Just checked your profile to see where you live and had a real chuckle. We used to call our rural properties Bobcat Ranch - not that they were ranches (too small) but his name if Bob and I'm Cat so....

                                        Bob says that, when on the golf course, never eat blackberries that are lower than three feet because men don't necessarily adhere to the indoor toilet rule when golfing!!!

                                        To be on-topic, one year my daughters and I fixed a blackberry peach cobbler. It was wonderful.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          We used to have a camp on a larger tract of land that had a Cedar stand that was over 100 years old.
                                          There was a ridge where an Aspen grove met the Cedars and many times when I hunted that spot I would see Bob Cats. They have become some what rare in this area. It was a very unique spot. We had black bears as well. One literally chewed my picnic table in to pieces.
                                          No public access so no worries about eating the wild berries. I did transplant some into a patch and the grew very nicely.

                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        When I went to grad school in Eugene, we always wanted (but never got) long, extendable aluminium ladders to lay up and on top of the eight foot high x 20 yard diameter bushes to be able to climb up and on top of the suckers rather than just picking around the sides.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          That's EXACTLY the kind of blackberry invasion I was referring to! Our last house in Oregon had two large *clumps* but I could only pick around the edges but for a different reason. They also had poision oak growing in there to which I'm highly allergic (as in I carry prednisone with me all summer when traveling as I never know when I might have gotten it off the dogs). But they're down by the mailbox so it was always a treat to pick some every day and just eat which is actually my favorite "recipe."

                                    2. For the last few years I have let the weeds go in the back of my property and noticed this year that I have an over abundance of what I thought were Black Rasberries. When I tasted them, they were sort of tart unlike what I thought they should taste like.

                                      I did some research online and found I actually had Wild Blackberries and no, they are not poisonous.
                                      Having so many of them, even though they were tart and something I would not eat just picking them, I thought it would be a shame just to let them ripen and dry up.

                                      Well I think I just ruined my first attempt at making Jam lol.

                                      I had collected 4 cups of berries, brought them in the house, washed them several times, put them in a pan, crushed them with a potato masher and turned up the heat. They started to liquify as I was mashing them, so I gave it a taste. YUCK

                                      It didn't have any distinctive taste and surely needed sugar at which time I added a cup. After I did that I thought I better check on the computer again for recipies. TO LATE..

                                      I found I was doing everything right except many of the recipies called for 4 to 7 cups of sugar and pectin which helps to solidify the jam. I only added a 2nd cup of sugar because with tasting it was sweet but still no distinctive taste. I didn't have pectin BUT I did have a box of strawberry sugar free instant Jello. What the heck, why not (chuckle).

                                      Big Mistake, now it has that sugar free instant taste. I also didn't want the seeds and you know I wasn't prepared to really make this so I didn't have a cheesecloth. I tried straining all I could from my colander. I still have some seeds but got most out.

                                      I got 3 cups cooling in my fridge waiting for them to set up so I can decide if I need to toss it all.

                                      I have many more Blackberries to ripen yet, so I'll try it again doing it the right way but like I said, not sure if I will bother where the Blackberries really don't have any distinctive flavor or lets say a flavor I care for. Or maybe I should just STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!!

                                      Recap: The jams been in the fridge for about 2 hours, in checking one for setness I dipped a spoon in and it had a 1/8 " firm setting on the top but underneath was still runny. I tasted again, Not that bad considering the sugar fee flavor but I can now taste a faint flavor of Blackberry. I just might do this again.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: BarbNMass

                                        I'm really curious what you have. Ripe blackberries aren't excessively tart. Maybe they were starting to dry out? Would that make them tart? Before I killed all that I could get my spray to (!!!) I would eat them right off the canes. Have you actually taken some, along with the foliage into your nursery?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I used to pick blackberries in MO as a child. In my experience ripe blackberris are doggoned tart. Also. quite small. Good in cobbler, though.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            Could Southern Oregon berries be THAT different than MO? I suppose so.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              We grew up with cultivated blackberries in our backyards in MO, some tartness but fine for eating off the vine.

                                            2. re: sueatmo

                                              I also picked gallons of blackberries in MO (Gravois Mills Lake of the Ozarks) in the '50's. They were not tart in the least; many were bigger than my thumb. The greatest picks were when Ida Thornton would convince her husband and local mailman, Charlie, to come along. He had a wooden leg and could stomp down the canes without getting raked by the thorns. It was great. I also had a secret place where they grew over the water and I could pick them from my row boat. My grandmother made the finest cobbler you ever could imagine. I had them with my cereal every morning. There's nothing better than wild blackberries (unless you happen upon a productive gooseberry bush). Sigh. I could write a book!

                                        2. Besides use in baked goods, they are lovely for ice cream. I also like them served with slightly sweetened marscarpone, in anything in combination with peaches or necatrines, and also in salads. A handful thrown into an arugula (rocket) salad or similar is quite good. Because they are a bit tart they can be easily used in savory as well as sweet dishes.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: cookie44

                                            Since my newest addiction is arugula, I love the idea of blackberries in/on that. Thanks.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              In that case, fresh peaches and arugula is terrific too and welcomes other additions. I like goat cheese with it, maybe some nuts.

                                              1. re: cookie44

                                                I'm liking this idea more and more. We have houseguests coming for the weekend including two teenagers who are adventuresome eaters but whose young palate might not love the peppery arugula. But adding the things you mention will soften the flavor plus they can pick out the goodies if they want. Thanks.

                                          2. We picked them as a kid in North Carolina and made blackberry dumplings. Sort of like cobbler but made in a cast iron on the stovetop. Less heat in the house for those hot NC summers!

                                            1. I like to put blackberries, and strawberries in a bowl with raspberries. I put them out at the very last minute and mix them very gently. It is simple but I have served it at my church buffet and people comment on how lovely it is and how it looks. Blackberries would also be very good in a tart.

                                              1. About 80 years ago the poet Edna St Vincent Millay wrote a letter home from France: "I have made the most delicious discovery---the French think blackberries are poison. This means that every blackberry in France is growing and living and having its being for ME."

                                                1. There is a significant difference between a true wild blackberry and a cultivar gone wild. In Oregon, we only used the term "wild" for the native blakberry, and we made jam with it. The cultivated kind were used for cobbler.

                                                  1. Wild blackberries are lovely but you shouldn't pick any random berries without a specific, known guide to insure they are food and not poison.