How to Pick Wild Blackberries and Raspberries

Ripe blackberries are perfect for salads and cobblers. (Pixabay)

During summer, nature begins to offer a bounty all its own, free for the picking — wild blackberries and raspberries!

Unmistakable, easy to pick and delicious, you can readily find blackberries and raspberries in summer.

Here are some tips for taking advantage of wild blackberry and raspberry season in your area.

a raspberry and a blackberry
Raspberries, left, and blackberries, right, both grow on branches and are easy to pick. (Pixabay)

About Wild Blackberries and Raspberries

There are many, many types of wild edible berries, but blackberries and raspberries are by far the easiest to identify. Growing in those telltale tiny clusters, they don’t have any lookalikes and are all safe to eat.

Blackberries and raspberries are very similar, and they’re picked (and enjoyed!) in the same ways. Blackberries are always black when ripe while raspberries can be red or black, depending on the variety. For our purposes, the only real difference is raspberries are hollow and cup-shaped, while blackberries are solid to the stem.

With a little practice, you’ll quickly learn to identify the plants as well. They have three compound leaves that are oval-shaped and toothed along the edges. The wild plants usually grow in brambles, and their stems are very thorny. Cultivated varieties can be thornless.

Scope out picking spots in the spring, when the plants are covered in small white blooms that are easily spotted from a distance. The berries ripen in May or June in warmer climates, and July in cooler climates, and you can pick them over several weeks.

berries on branch
Blackberries grow naturally on a branch. (Pixabay)

Blackberry and Raspberry Picking Tips

As you head out with your pails and baskets, follow these tips for successful wild berry picking:

  • Where to Find Berries: Look along sunny roadways, fences, and in overgrown meadows. Berries are especially common at the edge of wooded areas, which means you can easily spot them along the sides of country highways and around the edges of pastures and farm fields. Be sure to ask permission before picking berries on private property.
  • Protect Yourself: In addition to being thorny, blackberries and raspberries tend to grow in wild, overgrown areas frequently inhabited by unpleasant companions such as wasps, snakes, mosquitoes, chiggers, and poison ivy. Wear closed shoes, long pants, and long sleeves to protect your skin from stings and bites. Gloves are also helpful but tend to snag on the thorns; I usually just accept a few scratched fingers as the cost of doing business.
  • Make Noise: People aren’t the only ones who enjoy blackberries. Be sure to make plenty of noise to alert other nibbling critters, such as bears and snakes, of your presence.
  • Pick Only Ripe Berries: Blackberries and raspberries won’t ripen after you pick them, so only take the best ones. Ripe berries are large, plump, deeply colored, and easily slip off the stem. If you have to tug, it isn’t ripe. I always find it helpful to taste a few berries here and there to make sure I’m doing a good job finding the ripest, sweetest ones!
  • Carry a Container: Drop your berries into a shallow bucket or basket. I like to use a lightweight plastic bowl or colander. It’s OK to fill the container, but don’t pack them in or press them down. Since the plants are so thorny, give everybody their own bucket, so that you don’t have to detangle yourself every time your hands are full.
  • Be Patient: The best berries often hide in the middle of the plant. If you take the time to search out the ripe ones, you may find that you can get all the berries you want without taking more than a few steps.
  • After Picking: Keep your blackberries or raspberries in the shade and get them into the fridge or a cooler as soon as possible. They’ll keep for a few days, possibly a week, in the fridge. Don’t wash them until right before you’re going to use them. To wash, rinse the berries in cool water, discarding any rotten or squashed ones.
  • Salt Water Bath: Some veteran berry pickers like to soak the fresh berries for an hour or two in salt water (one cup per gallon), to dislodge any little grubs that might be hiding inside. I’ve never done this and never spotted any worms; but then again, maybe I’ve inadvertently eaten some extra protein!
  • Eating Berries: I tend to eat berries almost as fast as I pick, but if any fresh berries actually make it indoors, there are all sorts of ways to enjoy them. Sprinkle fresh berries on cereal or salads, make jam, enjoy cobblers and pies, and freeze the leftovers for smoothies or a midwinter treat. Blackberries and raspberries are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, so other than a possible stomachache, it’s impossible to overeat them.

Further Reading


  1. Thanks! I live in Rohnert Park, CA and wild blackberries grow around clusters of trees or along the creeks, and it was helpful to learn how to tell ripe from unripe.

  2. I have a vine look like raspberry vine but the stem very thin it crawl on the ground. it very thorny. the leave look just like raspberry. last year it has two fruits on it. I afraid to eat it, could it be a raspberry? I have a raspberry vine it stem a lot thicker than the wild on the fence. could raspberry stem 1/8 of an inch? it growth close to the ground or on the ground. it does grow like the real raspberry, the only thing is so thin stem. it could not support it weight. could it be raspberry?

  3. It may be a new baby raspberry shoot from off of the main plant (underground runner). Raspberries do spread. Also, one website said that there are no poisonous raspberry look-alikes. You can dig under to see if it is connected. My plants have many shoots. In fact, they grew in the wild on their own.

  4. This is a great guide! I always remember to make a lot of noise when I’m berry picking! Can’t chance a run in with a snake! Eeek!

    We live in Napa, and wild blackberries are everywhere right now! So yummy!

  5. Are the red berries resembling the black ones on the same vine in ripening stage to turn black? Or are they edible in red?

  6. A very useful guide. Many thanks. I never knew raspberries could be black!

    I live in Ireland, so we have no snakes or bears to frighten off or to frighten us. We do like to make a lot of noise when picking berries, however, to chase away the leprechauns! 😉

  7. I have found a bunch of wild blackberries growing on my property and would love to use them but the seeds are so hard and huge…are u supposed to seed them first or just eat or bake with the seeds in? I have bought pie before and the seeds were left in,,,tasted great but the seeds are annoying 🙂

  8. I do believe we may have both! We have tons still green, some pink, some red. We’ve picked about three quarts so far. Guess I should have read this article first! The berries we picked so far I put into a colander, and rinced them. Once drained, I put them into freezer bags, taking the air out of the bag. Sure hope I didn’t ruin them, and the thought of eating critters is nauseating! I will probably pick again Sunday, but will follow these directions.

  9. Purchased a few acres recently. Heading out this morning to pick a few and googled the protocol if any. Great article. Looking forward to not having to make a store run for smoothies or cobblers now!

  10. We have several bushes that have sprung up along our fence line and are bearing fruit. With the confidence this article gives us we’ll be picking them when they ripen in a few days. Thanks.

  11. Just this month I found blackberry brambles in my back yard. I found a recipe for blackberry- vanilla infused vodka. As you read this, I am making it in a gallon jug for holiday giving,.. and for me;-). Looking forward to enjoying the ‘fruits’ of my labor!

  12. I use long gardening gloves with the finger tips cut out to harvest blackberries. This protects my arms as I reach into the vines but I can still feel the berries.

  13. Grew up on a farm here in western pa. Mom canned so picking berries was annual, usually about 20 gallons. Here in western pa we have a mixture of the india and european strains, and some ground growing strains, but believe me they are EVERYWHERE. Just remember long sleeves will keep the thorns away, picking from underneath also helps. I pick 5 to 10 gallons a year. After cleaning, I freeze mine in freezer bags, also make pies, cobbler, and jelly.

  14. We stumbled upon a few massive blackberry plants that were hiding on our property and are so excited!!
    I have a ton of questions, but right now I am wondering if it is better to pick the ripe berries early in the day?
    I have read that snakes and bears (bears we do not have!!) but I wonder if birds eat them and if so do they eat them early?
    Although as prickly as these things are I would hate to see the poor bird that tried to get at “Our” Blackberry bushes!! 🙂

  15. I would love to get the recipe for blackberry infused vodka that Mary Lou mentioned in her comment. Can someone send it to me please?

  16. We have a lot of blackberries here in Sweden and I have found they are very useful for dying hair. I take a handful of berries and rub them into my beard, and like magic all the nasty grey hairs are gone.

  17. How often do you pick black raspberries.? Daily or every other day. I have quite a spread out patch I am picking for a couple I am house sitting for. Just wondering. I do not want any to go to waste. Right now at tje beginning of the srason i an only getting a little over 2 cups a picking. There are lots of red ones and little white ones yet.

  18. Hi there,
    Interesting article.. jammed full of so much good information. Thank you!
    I am wondering if anyone knows if there are health risks or what the tocxicity levels are of berries grown by a busy road or highway??
    I imagine them being full of toxins with all the dust, carbons etc…
    but they look so darn tasty! ??
    Thanks for you help !
    Hope to hear back from you!!

  19. I have a blackberry bush that is going wild, producing more than I could ever eat. I know I could make jam.
    However, I am wondering about thinning-less energy required by the bush, better tasting fruit??
    I can’t find any information about thinning??


  20. I live in Iowa and there is a ton of berries that have been growing in the woods behind our house, I want to know when do I pick them?

    • Hi, Tucker,
      We suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association for the best recommendation tailored to your geographic area. Here’s where you can do that:
      Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  21. Hi Danny,
    Can you please tell me whether the wild red and blackberries growing in my yard can be eaten safely, with poison ivy growing along with it? I have been trying for years to find this out. Thank you.

    • Hi, Lisa,
      Whether the fruit is edible depends on your specific garden and its conditions.
      We recommend contacting your local Master Gardeners Association for a personal visit to inspect the area.
      Master gardeners make house calls and provide free advice for people in their area.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  22. Growing up, I was told snakes especially loved to haunt blackberry patches when the fruit was coming ripe because birds would show up then. So I was taught to carry a long stick with me when picking blackberries. You’d constantly tap the ground with the stick as you moved along and you’d poke it through the patch all the way to the ground where you were going to pick, so as to warn the snakes away. Or yourself away. I heard a rattlesnake once. Backed out of there quick!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here