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If summer had a taste, it would be blackberry-flavored | Kitsap Week

After a cold and wet summer, blackberries are beginning to ripen in Kitsap. - Erin Jennings
After a cold and wet summer, blackberries are beginning to ripen in Kitsap.
— image credit: Erin Jennings

Eleven months of the year, people curse the blackberry plant.

With its thick, strong stalks and thumbtack-size thorns, they can literally be a thorn in your side.

And as anyone who has tried to clear blackberry vines can tell you, you need to be armed with thick gloves (perhaps even two pair), snag-free clothing, an axe and a shovel.

Or better yet, a bulldozer.

And even then you'll be lucky if they don't return the next season.

But for a few weeks in August when the fruit of a blackberry plant ripens, the dreaded plant quickly turns from foe to friend.

Throughout Kitsap as the days approach 80 degrees and the sun is shining, a collective cheer of "Oh yay! The blackberries are ripening!" is overheard.

Never mind the cat-like scratches the plant can inflict.  Or the holes the thorns can tear into your favorite T-shirt.

It's berry-picking time!

Be on the lookout for people along roadsides and in parks foraging for the juicy fruit.

Prepared folks carry empty bowls in their cars on the off-chance they drive by a prolific plant.

Last week, brothers Schuyler and Sean Westerhout were plucking the just-ripe berries from the vine.

"We eat the berries sprinkled over oatmeal," said 14-year-old Schuyler. "And sometimes we make blackberry syrup."

Blackberries pack a lot of nutrition in their nickel-size fruit. One cup of blackberries contains 62 calories, two grams of protein, 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and is high in vitamins C and K.

The prolific blackberry plant in our region is the Himalayan Blackberry (or the Rubus armeniacus) and despite its Asian-sounding name, the plant originated in Europe. The plant thrives in our moist and moderate climate. And it isn't picky about where it takes root— you’ll even find sprouts coming out of cracks in the pavement.

The Washington State Noxious Week Control Board designated the Himalayan Blackberry as a Class C weed —a designation that means the weed is already widespread in the state.

But for now, let's enjoy the fruit.  Come winter when the stalks dry out, that’s the time to try to eradicate it. (Good luck.)

Because of our cold and wet summer, the fruit is late to ripen — but it has  begun.

It's also available in local grocery stores, but at close to $2 a pint, you can't beat the $0.00 cost of picking your own.

And besides the satisfaction of picking your own fruit, you will have the tale-tell sign of a berry-picking Pacific Northwesterner: dark violet fingers and blackberry seeds stuck in your teeth.

Because when it comes down to it, the fruit doesn’t get much better than eaten straight from the vine.

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