May is ripe for the harvest! The native harvest, that is. Weird Star Wars references, sombreros, and the first cutting of hay may more commonly denote this month, but there are also countless native forages ready for the taking. This is a great opportunity to get the whole family involved. The weather is perfect for a quick outing with substantial payout. Get the kids out there! Teach them about bugs, pollination, new growth, and the way the sun works. You can explain to them how this burst of new spring food helps the mama deer feed the baby deer and how it helps the bucks grow big new antlers. All the while having them gather the sweet bramble bounties, the Blackberry!
Blackberries ripen from late April to the end of May. There are several different varieties, but all are tasty. Blackberry patches are easily spotted in early spring by their white star-shaped flowers and reddish vines. These attributes can be used to “scout” for later picking. Be careful of the thorns. They are small and sharp and sure to prick even the most wary of pluckers. We are not the only ones to make use of these little morsels. Raccoons, Opossums, Mocking Birds, and Box Tortoises make the short list of many creatures that enjoy a sweet berry. Be careful while reaching down deep, because this is also the season that the snakes come out of hiding. Don’t let the snakes keep you indoors, but it’s always good to have it in the back of your mind. Last year I had a copperhead crawl across the toe of my boot. I just kept on a picking!
Any ole bucket will do, but I’ve found that the best implement for collection is a rinsed out milk jug. This helps prevent spills while you get to those hard to reach spots. Once you’ve collected about a gallon (and eaten half of that while picking) it’s time to head home and refine them! Of course they are most delicious au natural. If you prefer the healthier route, dump them in a colander, rinse, remove any debris, dry them on a paper towel mat, and store in a well-ventilated container at room temperature to enjoy! Here in Texas, we like our sweets. So naturally, one of my favorites is Blackberry cobbler. Melt ¼ of a stick of butter in a medium casserole dish, then generously layer the bottom of the dish in your cleansed berries. In a separate bowl, mix a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and a cup of sugar. Dump the mix on top. (If more is needed, continue with the same ratio.) Bake at 350 until golden-brown and delicious. To add a little more southern taste, I like to add a few squares of butter on top a few minutes before it’s done. Serve in a bowl with generous amounts of Blue Bell.
Some of my best memories growing up were of my family and I riding down dusty county roads berry picking in an old Dodge pickup. No lie, I literally won over my in-laws with a gallon of blackberries when I had just started dating my now wife. There is a plethora of foods to gather out there this spring: Polk-salad, blackberries, wild plums, morrells, honey-suckle, and even wild onions. My favorite has to be the blackberry for all its many uses and how readily available it is. So get out there and harvest what God has provided before the birds beat you to them!