The wild blackberry bush on the border between our yard and the neighbors’ seems like it’s on the border between civilization and the wild. After all, it is beyond the fence. Clutching our little rinsed-out yogurt cups, my sister lifts the metal latch, too high for me to reach, and we follow the chain link fence to the grassy hill behind our house, the edge of the woods, the neighbor’s blackberry bush. Although we have permission from both the neighbors and our parents, it feels like a wild adventure to be pulling down thorny branches and reaching under wide leaves to search for hidden treasure: plump, juicy blackberries. We alight the cement stairs to the back door into the kitchen half an hour later with cups full of berries, scratches on our arms, and purple juice on our chins and fingers.
That was twenty-five years ago. I hadn’t gone berry-picking in over twenty years until last week. “Petel Bahar” (פטל בהר) in Gush Etzion opens its cherry orchards and berry bushes to public picking, for a fee, from mid-May through July. (This is an unsolicited recommendation. The opinions are completely my own. I am not being compensated at all for this post. BUT…if you happen to go, it won’t hurt to mention that you heard about it on my blog. ;-)) The staff gave us tips on how to pick the ripest, sweetest, juiciest blackberries and raspberries:
How to Pick the Best Blackberries
- The berries that grow in the sun are sweeter than the ones that grow in the shade.
- Blackberries should be completely black. If they are red, they aren’t ripe, and if there is even a hint of red, they may be sour, or at least not very sweet.
- The best blackberries are plump and full of juice. They look like they will burst if you touch them. Sometimes they do!
- Grasp the berry where it is attached to the branch and pull gently. It should come off easily. If it doesn’t, it isn’t ripe.
- Wash as necessary.In the picture below, you can see that most of the blackberries are completely black. A few have reddish spots. Those are probably the least sweet.
How to Pick the Best Red Raspberries
- The raspberries here are shaped almost like strawberries, except they grow on bushes.
- The darker the red, the better.
- If the raspberry is fully ripe, it basically falls into your hand when you touch it. If it needs a gentle pull, it’s fine. If you need to tug, leave it. It’s not ready, even if it’s red.
- The stem attached to the bush grows down into the raspberries, and the fruit slips right off, hollow inside. The stem stays on the bush.
- Wash as necessary.
In the picture below, you can see the hollow spaces inside the red raspberries.
Raspberries and blackberries are rare in Israel, so I’m enjoying this unique opportunity!