June in Mississippi is when the temps start hitting the high 90′s, a trip to the mailbox means sweating through your shirt, and air conditioners in cars and homes break down in a chorus that is the sweetest music to the eager ear of every repair man.
Thankfully, June in Mississippi also means the blackberries are ripening.
There are few things in life as reliable as the arrival of the blackberries every June. You may not get your big haul in the same week of June every year, but there are berries to be had all month long.
Picking wild blackberries is not ordinary foraging and it isn’t for the weak. Besides the steadily increasing temperatures and humidity, you also have to contend with the gnashing thorns, whining clouds of mosquitoes, and an endless army of ticks marching up the inside of your pant legs.
The only real defense you have against the elements is a thick pair of jeans and bug spray with a ridiculously high percentage of Deet. I used a spray with a 40% concentration of Deet for my last foray and my skin is still red wherever the noxious liquid made contact.
Why do I do this? For those sweet sweet berries of course. Wild blackberries are a gift from nature. They have the same subtle nuance of taste you would find in a fine winemaker’s grape, their bounty encourages the reckless abandon of overindulgence, and they’re fleeting. Blackberries just don’t keep. They barely last a day once you pick them, and once June is gone so are they…till next year anyway.
Wild blackberries tend to move around alot too. A spot that was productive one season might be baron the next. While their requirements for good irrigation and sunlight stay the same the big clumps of berries seem to migrate or drift from one year to the next.
I’ve found a premium spot this season though. The road that leads to the Trail of Big Trees in the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge is lined with hedge after hedge of huge plump blackberries. I filled my first container in 20 minutes. There are lots of red ones left too, so the berry picking should still be good into next week. The shear number of fruit in one place could make this my biggest blackberry season ever.
Have you ever foraged for wild food? Share your experiences below.