Blackberry-picking season is right around the corner. In fact, in the next several weeks, blackberries will be ready for picking at several local farmers' markets. Don't be fooled by the early berries growing on the side of the road because those are dewberries, not blackberries.
Tommy Neal from Neal's Farm & Farmers Market explains that dewberries are ripe right now and blackberries will be three weeks from now.
"Taste-wise, they are almost identical," Neal says. "The amount of juice compared to the amount of seeds is drastically different."
As fun as it is to pick dewberries on the side of the road with the family, you should definitely wait a few more weeks to pick blackberries at local farmers' markets.
Rick Matt of Matt Family Orchards notes what blackberries should look like and feel like when they are ready to be picked.
"When the berry turns the color black and it becomes shiny," Matt says. "It is not a dull color. It is still firm to the touch, but all of the fruit bits are full of juice -- they are swollen. Those are the ones you want to pick."
Matt also notes that the best time to pick blackberries is in the morning. "It is cool and it is comfortable for the berry and you. It has rested all night long and it is not dehydrated," he says.
Other than just using the appearance of the blackberries to determine if they are ready to be picked, Neal suggests grabbing them a particular way when pulling them off the bush.
"You grab a blackberry, rip the blackberry and twist it 90 degrees," Neal says. "If it comes off, it is ripe; if you have to pull on it, then it is not ripe. That is how you get the sweetest berries. They just snap right off when you turn them sideways."
Take the whole family out to one of these locations to pick fresh and sweet blackberries. The berries should be ripe in the next three weeks.
Matt Family Orchard 21110 Bauer Hockley Road, Tomball 281-351-7676
Neal's Berry Farm & Farmers Market 24527 ½ Gosling Road, Spring 281-255-3699
P-6 Farms 9963 Poole's Road, Montgomery 936-597-6062
Blackberries of Houston 19531 Cypress Church Road, Cypress 281-373-5357
E & B Orchards 28268 Clark Bottom Road, Hempstead 979-826-6303
As soon as you get your fresh blackberries, you're going to have to whip up something in the kitchen with them. Here are five recipes to use them.
5. Blackberry Pie
It wouldn't be summer without a pie. Whether you're hosting a family get-together over the summer or celebrating a birthday, or you just want to make a pie, a blackberry pie is always a crowd pleaser. Try Paula Deen's blackberry pie with lemon juice and lemon zest for a complementary citrus touch.
4. Blackberry Smoothie
You can throw just about any fruit into a blender with some blackberries for a refreshing breakfast or afternoon treat. Mangoes, bananas, oranges and other berries like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries all complement the sweet and juicy blackberries. Blend any combination of fruits with some yogurt or milk for a delicious summer snack.
3. Blackberry Glaze
Grill pork chops and baby back ribs for a summer cookout and top with a blackberry glaze for a sweet finish. You can also incorporate some chipotle or other spicy ingredients to give the glaze a kick.
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2. Blackberry Mojito
A little bit of mint, citrus, sugar, rum or vodka and blackberries makes a refreshing and tasty summer drink. Sit poolside with this beverage and you'll definitely feel like you're on a relaxing beach vacation.
1. Blackberry Cobbler
You can't pick blackberries without making a cobbler out of them. My mom always likes to add two fruits to her cobblers. Peaches and blackberries work perfectly together because they are both sweet yet a little tart, and their complementary colors make for a great presentation. Finish each bowl with a scoop of ice cream and you have summer's best dessert.