My Grandmother Bullington constructed fabulous blackberry cobblers. I’m not at all sure what made them what they were. My brother agrees with my opinion of them being something special, so I’m sure they weren’t just special in my imagination!
Maybe the big can of lard under the counter was part of the secret, but in any case, I’m a blackberry fan.
Needless to say, I grew up picking blackberries. All we knew in my early years were wild plants and berries. I didn’t think much about it as a kid, but since then I’ve noted tremendous variation among wild blackberry vines.
Around our place, even now, are these spots where the berries and plants too are far beyond the ordinary.
In this part of the world there’s sort of an average wild blackberry. The plants are an identifiable type, as are the fruit. Typical berries tend to be a little cone-shaped object with a slightly sweet, but a somewhat astringent, twang to it.
Typical wild blackberries here can be picked when just partially black, still somewhat red, and you get the blackberry twang with a touch of sweet.
Sugar in the blackberry products really makes the taste, with the blackberry bitter twang furnishing the character to jelly, cobblers, or whatever.
My Dad always said you needed some mostly red berries in the picked fruit to give it the right taste. I agree.
Now if there’s an average berry, there must be some below average and some above average.
Let’s consider below average first.
Some wild blackberries are just tiny little fruits with an almost completely astringent taste, even when virtually dead ripe. When you get into some of these it takes forever to fill up a picking cup, making you wonder about the returns for your time.
Then there are the above average berries.
I can take you right now to fence rows scattered around the county populated by these very atypical blackberry vines.
In each case, you would see plants with more vigor, stronger canes, and just generally more robust. But the fruit is the thing. These berries are, in some cases, the size of the end of my rather large thumb.
Unlike some tame berries, the seeds aren’t particularly large either. These above average blackberry fruits are high in sugar, low in pucker factor, and fill up picking cups very quickly.
How can this be? How could such terrific fruits appear among the typical plants?
We wondered at times if some of the tame plants my Dad purchased years ago had somehow been spread about, and we were seeing naturalized tame berries.
But, as I recall, the best “wild” berries are better in every way than those purchased yard plants. And, after all, tame blackberries are basically selections from wild blackberries anyway.
Worth a mention are thorn-less blackberries. We’ve had some success with some of the early thorn-less cultivars like Thorn Free and Black Satin. The truth is though, their main attributes are lack of thorns and lots of berries. The seeds are huge and the flavor is lacking.
We’ve planted some of the more modern improved varieties but moved before they fruited. We hope in the future to work more with the newer blackberry selections.
When you’re growing something that’s mostly trouble free, you’re often on the right trail it seems to me. And blackberries are mostly easy to grow.
If we really get a hankering for blackberries, we go right to the best spots. We know just the hedgerows to find them. We just skip out on the average plants.
To avoid chiggers and ticks, we usually back the pickup truck right to the brambles and pick from the bed. That tip could save you much grief.
So be on the lookout for extra vigorous berry canes and their extra-special fruit. And include a few red berries to pack in some bold blackberry twang.
Then put in some tame canes, maybe of the Arapaho or Navajo cultivars, to see what develops.
My Grandmother’s blackberry cobblers certainly made an impression on some little boys and girls, her grandchildren. Our taste for blackberries is still alive and well!