By Peg Craft, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
If you’re looking for a new adventure this summer, especially one that’s healthy, tasty, and can involve the whole family, berry picking may be right for you. It’s a chance to spend time together outdoors and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Wildlife and people enjoy the tastes of wild fruits in the summer. They’re also rich in anti-oxidants, fiber, and vitamins C and K.
Mulberries are among the first fruits of the season, ripening from late May through July. Birds and squirrels love them so you’ll find the trees full with fruit and song. And your kids’ hands and faces sporting happy blue stains. Mulberries make fine pies and cobblers. The trees grow in a wide variety of places and are common in cities. The wood of the mulberry tree has a number of uses, including fence posts and furniture because of its density and decay-resistance.
A fruit that’s often picked when it’s still green is the gooseberry. The unripened fruit is tangy and makes terrific pies. The ripe fruit is red and sweet and it’s hard to beat the birds to them. Gooseberries are found June through September in open woods and roadsides. The leaves of gooseberries can be used raw in a tossed salad or slaw. They can also be used to make tea. Another name for gooseberry is feverberry, because rumor has it you can crush up the leaves, add them to hot water and get a concoction that will break a fever.
Blackberries are perhaps the all-time favorite summer wild fruit for people as well as raccoons, squirrels, box turtles, and birds. Ripening in late June through August, blackberries taste great fresh, in pies, and as toppings. Look for their briar patches in prairies, old fields and along wooded edges. These berries are sometimes used in natural healing techniques. The leaves have been known to provide benefits to those suffering from gum inflammation and sore throat. Watch how to make a creamy blackberry pie video in the gallery below.
It doesn’t take much prep time to get started. You’ll need a bucket, protection from sun and insects, some old shoes, and long sleeves and pants as some fruits will be surrounded by thorns. Make sure you know exactly what you are picking before consuming wild berries. It helps to start with someone with experience. Also, ask permission before berry picking on private property. It’s a great idea to share some of your harvest with the landowners that have granted you permission.