Berries Foraging

When to Pick Wild Blackberries

Maybe you’ve got a hankering for a wild blackberry pie. We’ve all been there. Unlike with the giant berries you get from the grocery store, you’re going to have to be in the right place at the right time to get your fill of wild blackberries.

When can you pick wild blackberries? Most locations have wild blackberries ripe throughout July and August, although some warmer climates may have seasons starting in late June. Not all fruits on a wild blackberry plant ripen at once and varying microclimates in a location provide a long harvest duration.

Keep reading and you’ll find out everything you need to know about timing the harvest of wild blackberries perfectly. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of forgiveness in how this season plays out, so you should have plenty of opportunities.

When Can You Pick Wild Blackberries

As with many things in life, finding the best time to pick wild blackberries comes down to one thing: location, location, location.

Now, I’m not merely referring to your latitude or the severity of your climate; it also matters exactly where you get your wild blackberries. Generally speaking, wild blackberries ripen over a period of several months, and August is the best time to pick them.

When the Season Starts Depends on Your Location

For most people, wild blackberries start to ripen sometime in July. Depending on your climate, this may happen in early or late July. People in warmer climates may even experience a wild blackberry season that starts in late June.

wild blackberry fruits of varying ripeness on a cane
Note the varying degrees of ripeness found on this single plant. Some of the fruits are mostly black, but they still have a small amount of red on them.

As I mentioned earlier, you need to also consider the habitat that you are picking wild blackberries from. Blackberries growing along a trail in a mature forest will tend to take longer to ripen, as they receive less light overall.

Not All Wild Blackberries Ripen at the Same Time

Another thing to keep in mind is that single plants of wild blackberries have their berries ripen throughout a range of time. This means that for each plant that you visit, only a handful of blackberries may be ripe at the time. The nice thing is that wild blackberries are more prolific plants then wild raspberries, so you can generally expect to harvest more fruit from each plant.

Shifting away from talking about single plants, when you look at the variety of blackberry plants present in a single location, you may notice that plants are ripening at a different rate. Ultimately, this all gets back to the amount of sunlight that that individual plant has access to throughout the day.

If you’re a gardener and used to thinking about how the sun orientates itself throughout the sky, this will make sense for you. Everyone else might have a little extra work to get used to thinking about sunlight and where it is most prevalent. As you may know, plants with southern exposure and a clear path to sunlight will receive the most light and therefore ripen the quickest.

national forest land with thicket of blackberry plants and evergreen tree in background
A thicket of wild blackberry plants in the National Forest. This land was clear-cut 13 years ago after a tornado devastated the mature forest.

This is where you may notice a sharp increase in productivity from blackberry plants on disturbed land instead of plants in a mature forest. The high canopy of mature forests’ trees does a good job blocking out all of the available light, making it much more difficult for plants like blackberries to access light on the forest floor.

This is why it’s very important to think about the microclimates associated with the different plants you have access to. For example, if you’re picking at the end of summer, I wouldn’t expect blackberry plants on disturbed lands with southern exposure to have any remaining fruit. The fruit for those plants almost certainly ripened weeks ago, and the plants themselves likely look atrophied at this time.

And by disturbed lands, I’m mostly referring to lands that have been clear-cut logged in the last twenty years. In that case, the surrounding trees likely haven’t grown tall enough to block sunlight from reaching the blackberry plants.

July and August are Peak Wild Blackberry Picking Months

You probably already know this, but July and August are truly the best possible months for wild blackberry picking. Depending on where you live and what kind of wild blackberry patches you have access to, the exact timing of your big hauls may be shifted around by a couple of weeks, but you can expect this to be your best time.

Needless to say, get out all the buckets and containers you have, load them into your car, and make the most out of each great picking day you have.

If you are looking to make the most out of this year’s wild blackberry harvest, but you don’t want to be there every day, weekly visits during the peak season should serve you well. You may want to be less picky about the types of wild blackberries that you take home with you, as there’s no guarantee that that’s slightly unripe blackberry is anywhere to be found in one week.

How to Tell if a Wild Blackberry is Ripe

Alright, so we’ve identified the best time of year for you to be doing your wild blackberry picking; how exactly do you know when the fruit is ripe? Most people will already intuitively understand this, but here’s how it works: you’re looking for the fruit to be entirely black with a reasonable amount of softness to it.

Any sign of red or even a slightly purplish color indicates that the fruit is just not quite ready. You’re also looking for the blackberry to be somewhat soft and not on the firm side. As you probably can figure out, there’s a sweet spot here. Left just a bit too long on the plant, wild blackberries tend almost to liquefy and burst at the slightest touch.

Needless to say that you’re going to have some minor staining on your hands when you’re out picking. Don’t worry; this is all totally worth it.

How Long it Takes for Wild Blackberries to Ripen

This depends on where you live and what kind of sunlight the plant has access to, but you can expect fruit to begin to form on blackberry plants sometime in May or June.

unripe wild blackberry fruits on a cane in the national forest
This is what you may expect wild blackberries to look like approximately a month before they are ready to harvest.

It may take at least two months or more for the fruit to ripen, but you’ll be able to identify the blackberry plants even with the unripe fruit easily. This allows you to plan and find your best blackberry picking spots before the crunch time of peak blackberry picking season.

If you come early enough, the fruits will be green like in the picture above. As they ripen they’ll turn a bright red color and then a purple-ish color before they turn black.

Concluding Thoughts

I’m hoping that you enjoyed reading this article and got some value out of it. Picking wild blackberries is not a time of the year to miss, and some of my best memories involve this time of year.

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By Drew Meulemans

I've long admired forests and devote much energy to learning about them and exploring. I enjoy sharing what I learn and wish to inspire others to do the same.