an oregon treasure
In late summer, the blackberries ripen. Armed with assorted containers and wearing clothes splotched with purple from previous forays, my family eagerly heads out to harvest this Oregon treasure. Picking, tasting, and laughing, we spend summer hours gathering the sun-warmed, juicy berries. Back home, we make our special blackberry pie. The scent of summer lingers in the kitchen as the pie bakes. Afterward, we gather round the table to enjoy the fruit of our labor.
Blackberries can be found free for the taking along fences, roadsides, clearings, and fields throughout much of the Pacific Northwest during late summer and early fall. While there are native varieties, the most common types of blackberries found in Oregon are the non-native Evergreen and Himalaya blackberries
The Evergreen variety (Rubus laciniatus), introduced around 1850, originated in England.
The Himalayan blackberry (R. armeniacus Focke), originally reported to be from Asia and then Germany, actually came from Armenia and was sold by Luther Burbank around 1885 as a “guaranteed grower.” This prolific plant has become the most common non-commercial blackberry and is often considered an invasive weed. However, it does produce quantities of berries for pies, jam and jelly, and delicious summertime eating.
Amy Carney Bevins is a freelance writer and assistant magazine editor who has lived coast to coast. She and her family discovered the magic of the Oregon Coast during their three years in Coos Bay.
Story by Amy Bevins
|• Blackberrying is as messy as it is rewarding. Wear old clothes and expect sticky fingers and purple mouths.
• Select berries that are glossy, purplish-black, and come off easily when pulled. Dull, squishy berries are over-ripe.
• Blackberries damage easily. To avoid crushing them, use shallow containers for picking.
• Bring water to rinse berries so you can snack while you pick.
• Refrigerate unwashed berries between layers of paper towels to maintain freshness. Use within 2 to 3 days.
• Don’t wash berries until just prior to using.
• Blackberries freeze beautifully. Simply rinse, pat dry, and place in a single layer on a tray. When frozen, put in a zip-top bag for storage.
• For baked goods, use berries right from the freezer. Gently fold into batter right before baking.
• For more blackberry history and information, visit www.oregon-berries.com.
2 9-inch pie crusts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 cups fresh blackberries
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one pie crust, leaving the edges hanging over the sides. Set aside.
Gently mix together sugar, flour, lemon zest, and blackberries until the flour is all moistened. Pour the berry mixture into the pan with pie crust. Cover with the other crust. Seal the two crusts together by pinching or fluting the edges. Cut several slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the crust is golden and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust. Remove and allow to cool before eating.
Tip: To enjoy blackberry pies year-round, mix the berries with the flour, sugar, and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into a zip-top bag and freeze. To use, simply defrost and pour into the pie crust and continue as directed. Freeze several batches so you can enjoy summer’s goodness all year long.