Springtime Past Time
By Dana Goolsby
It’s blackberry pickin’ time in East Texas! Pickers have been out and about, scouring fence rows and pastures for at least two weeks. Wild southern blackberries and dewberries that grow in the Pineywoods will be picked by the gallons along East Texas highways and back roads from now until early June. East Texans will fight with the briars and brambles, and pick until their fingers are purple, just for the sake of a cobbler or two.
Blackberry picking is no picnic, but the rewards are plenty and the tradition involved is as sweet as the berries. Pickers have to be pretty determined to wade through thorny briars that can pierce through pants, and thrust their hands into prickly openings for the ripest berries. There is always the danger of encountering a snake or two as well. The canopy of the blackberry bushes provides protective cover from the sun and predators. Blackberry bushes also make an excellent place for snakes to prey on animals attracted to blackberries.
The tradition of blackberry picking runs deep in East Texas. For generations, East Texans have been harvesting the wild southern blackberries and dewberries. Today, parents continue to pass along the springtime past-time to their children.
In recent weeks, Emma Bennett and Ella Jeffus took to the fields at the Bennett’s ranch in Tennessee Colony in search of blackberries. The girls brought their berries home and sprinkled sugar on them, allowed them to sit long enough for the juice to start running and then enjoyed every sweet bite.
Gabe and Isaac Hobson of Grapeland have also been blackberry picking recently. They picked just enough to hand over to their grandmother Myra Musick, who in turn made blackberry crisp for the boys!
What is the difference between a blackberry and a dewberry? Dewberries are smaller (roughly the size of a thumbnail) and sweeter. They ripen in April and grow on sprawling vines in the wild. They are indescribably delicious, but some say the sweetness is fulfilled by braving snakes, stickers, heat and bugs for bucketfuls of berries.
Blackberries are bigger and blacker. They ripen in May and June and grow on upright canes. Gardeners and farmers cultivate them, but they grow wild, too. To make picking more agreeable, scientists have engineered varieties without those cursed thorns.
Blackberries are a great fresh ingredient that can help create an amazing dessert or can even be a great addition to a drink.
Blackberries are also good for you!
One cup of fresh blackberries has 62 calories, 1 gram of fat, 15 carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and only 1 mg of sodium. Blackberries are one of the top ten foods containing antioxidants and are packed with polyphenols helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. Blackberries are also filled with anthocyanins (antioxidants which give blackberries their deep purple color) which help in memory retention and the risk of hypertension. They are said to strengthen blood vessels, help fight heart disease and help improve eyesight. The high tannin content of blackberries help tighten tissue, relieve intestinal inflammation, and help reduce hemorrhoids and stomach disorders. Ohio State University found that blackberries may protect against esophageal cancer, a cancer caused by gastric reflux disease, but have shown to protect against other types of cancers. They contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), a compound believed to play a vital role in preventing breast and cervical cancer. Blackberries are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Manganese and fiber. The high fiber content of blackberries help reduce risk of intestinal disease and the risk of developing diabetes. Blackberries are a healthy food choice that kids and adults love. They are a great way to refuel after a hard workout and help aid in fighting obesity.
Blackberries are biennials and begin bearing the year after planting. The first year they can bear 2,000 pounds per acre, or about 8 gallons per 100 feet of row. Plants may produce for 15 years if managed properly, however, the best production is usually during years three through 8. Good yields range from 5,000 to 10,000 pounds per acre.
Cultivated blackberries are hand harvested and usually sold as pick-your-own or wholesale in 12-pint flats. The fruit should be picked every three days to obtain a maximum sugar content. The storage life is only one day without refrigeration. Few crops are as easy to grow and as rewarding as blackberries; however, it is easy to plant more than what can be pruned, kept weed-free, and irrigated.
Blackberries are well adapted to most areas of Texas, and are easily grown in home gardens. However, for profitable production, good management is essential. Small commercial plantings of blackberries are scattered throughout Texas. Where berries are sold as fresh fruit, they are marketed in pick-your-own operations.
There are numerous “pick your own” operation in East Texas.
Angelina CountyRidgeview Farms- Apples, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and prepicked produce
5471 State Hwy 7 West, Pollok, TX 75969. Phone: 936-853-3286. Directions: Hwy 7 at 103 1 mile, Farm on right or Hwy 7 at Hwy 69 go 5 miles, Farm on left. Crops are usually available in May, June, July, August. Open: Wednesday to Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm, Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm. Payment: Cash, Check.
Bowie CountyMoss Springs Farm – Blackberries.
1529 Fm 2149, New Boston, TX 75570. Phone: 903-826-3164 or 903-628-3510. Open: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. until Noon. Typical, average, usual, NOT precise harvest dates: Blackberries: June 9 to July 15 Blueberries: June 21 to July 15 Peaches: June 38 to July 20. Payment: Cash, Check. Directions: Interstate 30 to New Boston, take highway 8 South 4.5 miles, turn right on highway 2149 West. Moss Springs Farm is on the left 1.6 miles.
Camp CountyEfurd John H. Peach Orchard- Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
Hwy 271 S., Pittsburg, TX, zip. Phone: (866) 770-7936 or 903-856-2253. Directions: On U.S. Highway 271, three miles south of Pittsburg, first shed on left. Prepicked – Peaches, Onions, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Beans, Corn, Plums, Nectarines, Melons, Cantaloupes, Squash, Cucumbers, Peas.
Cass CountyThe Berry Patch– Blackberries; You-pick and already picked. 14353 FM 130, Hughes Springs, TX 75656. Phone: (430)342-2687 or (903)573-1701 Open: Mid May through Mid July. Directions: We are located north of Hughes Springs. Take highway 161 north 4 miles then turn right on to FM 130 and the farm is 1/2 mile on the right. Payment: Cash, only.
Franklin CountyCypress Springs Tree & Berry Farm– Blueberries and blackberries 506 CR 4345 SE, Scroggins, TX. Phone: 903-860-2588. Open: Thursday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday to Wednesday by appointment. Directions: From Dallas, I-30 east to Mt. Vernon, SH 37 south one mile, FM 21 east three quarters of a mile, FM 115 south approximately 8 miles to SE 4350 follow signs. In Winnsboro, from SH 37 and SH 11 intersection to FM 1448, NE 6 miles, left on SE 4340, right on SE 4345 follow signs.
Henderson CountyBlueberry Basket – Blueberries, Plums, Blackberries and Peaches (occasionally)
12462 FM 2588, LaRue, TX. Phone: 903-677-3448. Directions: Take Highway 175 to LaRue, turn right on paved FM 2588 and go three miles. Farm located on the right side of the road.
Morris CountyThe Greer Farm- blackberries, blueberries, figs, peas, and plums 1444 County Road 1125 Near Hwy 11 west of Daingerfield, Daingerfield, TX 75638. Phone: 903-645-3232 Open: Our farm and ranch is open year round, but during berry season our hours are sun up until sundown. Berries are best picked before the day gets too hot. Before noon or very late in the afternoon. The rest of year the farm and ranch is open 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Payment: Cash, Check. Directions: From highway 11 west of Daingerfield, take County Road 1124 then south on County Road 1125 for a mile. And for a map to our farm. Crops are usually available in May, June, July, August.
Nacogdoches CountyStoneybrook Farms– blackberries, blueberries, figs, flowers, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, U-pick and already picked, farm market. Also sells blueberry and blackberry plants. Every Saturday morning we sell at the Nacogdoches Farmers Market from 7 am to 12 noon or later. 6427 South Farm Road 225, Nacogdoches, TX 75964. Phone: 936 569 4859 Or 936 569 8292. Open: Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm; Always call before coming out. Directions: From West Loop 224 Take farm to market road 225 west toward lake Nacogdoches for 3.1 miles, look for old green and white Sinclair gas station sign on the left hand side of the road. Payment: Cash, Check.
Shelby CountyBlueberry Crossing – Blueberries, Blackberries, Muscadine Grapes, and Figs
997 Hwy 59 N, Timpson, TX. Phone: 936-254-3417. Open: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm. Directions: One mile NE of Timpson, 947 Highway 59 North. Smith County Deep Creek Farm – Blackberries, Blueberries
Highway 271, Tyler, TX. Phone: 903-877-3222. Open: 7am-7pm in season. Directions: One-half mile south of I-20 on Highway 271. Indian Creek Farm – Blackberries
11519 County Road 1139, Tyler, TX 75709 Phone: 903-526-8519 Open: The farm was closed for the 2011 season, but will reopen about May 15, 2012. Directions: 4 miles west of Tyler, one-half mile off Spur 364 on Indian Creek Road (C.R. 1139) on the left. Look for our bright yellow signs. .Payment: Cash, only.
Van Zandt CountyBlueberry Hill Farms, Inc.- Blackberries, blueberries, Honey from hives on the farm, gift shop, concessions / refreshment stand, restrooms, picnic area, birthday parties
10268 Fm 314, Edom, TX 75756. Phone: 903-852-6175. Open: June 4th thru July 31st each summer, Hours of Operation are 7:00 am till 5:00 pm every day, seven days a week, including Fourth of July!. Directions: 72 mile east of Dallas, TX on I-20, past Canton, Tx 19 miles to exit 540, take right and go twelve miles to Edom, TX at second stop sign you get to, take right then at next street take left, this places you back on FM 314 climbing a hill, at the top of the hill you will see us: Blueberry Hills Farms. Payment: Cash, Debit cards, Visa/MasterCard, Discover. No Pets Please! Lay Berry Farm- Blackberries, blueberries, peas, Honey from hives on the farm, snacks and refreshment stand, restrooms, picnic area
FM 1256, Canton, TX 75013. Phone: 214-208-0967. Open: starting June 5th; on Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 5pm. Blackberries and Blueberries available early June to mid July; Produce available to mid august. Payment: Cash, Check. Troubadour Blackberry Farm- Blackberries, already-picked produce, farm market, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area, petting zoo, farm animals, school tours
5018 Vzcr 2602, Canton, TX 75103 Phone: 903-848-9108 Open: Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm; Saturday, from 8am to 4pm. Payment: Cash, only.
Wood CountyBlueberry Ridge Farm Bed & Breakfast- Blackberries, blueberries, other berries, pumpkins, other vegetables, gift shop, concessions / refreshment stand, restrooms, picnic area, face painting, Bouncy castle, pony rides, petting zoo, farm animals, birthday parties, weddings and wedding parties, school tours, events at your location (call for info)
2785 East Highway 80, Mineola, TX 75773. Phone: 903-569-1550 or 903-569-0101 Open: Wednesday to Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm, June 10 to mid July. Directions: 2785 East Highway 80 is located five miles East of Mineola, Texas on the north side of Highway 80. Located directly across from a state picnic area. blueberries, blackberries, and elderberries are certified organic by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Hawkins Organic- Uses natural growing practices- blackberries, pears, U-pick and already picked
170 Yates Street, Hawkins, TX 75765 Phone: 903-769-1017 Open: Call ahead for appointment. Directions: Highway 14; 7/10ths mile north of Highway 80 is Yates Street, turn left, second house on right. Blackberries: June and July and Pears: September through November. We use natural practices, but are not seeking organic certification. Payment: Cash, only.
Do you have a blackberry recipe you would like to share with East Texas? If so, email us your recipe and any photos you wish to include to firstname.lastname@example.org.