My garden is much smaller, and the thornless bush chosen for the new surroundings is a different variety that creeps sideways rather than grows upwards. That’s so it doesn’t interrupt the gorgeous ocean view of others in this lovely subdivision!
Growing it, and loving the berries hasn’t changed though. I have a nice big bag of frozen berries for over the winter, with the promise of many more to come next year. Next year… always the refrain of the gardener!
And now, once again, the canes are dormant and waiting for Spring!
Is a bush really a bush?
In the winter it is a sad looking bunch of bare, forlorn looking stems, not very exciting at all. I am almost embarrassed by its nakedness; it’s ridiculous lack of attraction for anyone. The blackberry leans onto the wires stretched between two metal pipes, both sunk into concrete.
Birds fly by, disdaining even a look of interest. I put holographic tape on those stems in the summer so that they don't think of settling on the tempting berries.
The leaves shrivel up, shivering and quivering as the cold weather settles in. My blackberry bush believes in a long hibernation period.
I was ecstatic with delight when it ripened, although I wasn’t quite sure at that time whether it was fully ripe.
It wasn’t. It was black, but very sour. Disappointing indeed.
Towards the end of that year I noticed some strong new canes appearing from the bottom of the plant. This wasn’t something I had bargained for. However I accepted the new growth with good grace, and even a certain amount of joy, and hastily retreated to the internet for advice.
Hmm . . I learned that the precious first cane on which I had lavished so much love was a very temporary thing. I would have to cut it back to the ground. It had served its purpose, providing that one sour berry for my dubious pleasure. Now I would focus on three new stems for next year.
Falling in love
By the beginning of year 4 we had grown used to each other. I, my neighbours and several friends watched with incredulity as the blackberry produced hundreds of sturdy white flowers on short spurs, and then hundreds of delicious, huge berries. This blackberry does not do anything in a small way. It is exuberant, yet faithful and dependable, all the qualities that enchant one in a two-way nurturing relationship. I realized I was falling in love.
There were two urgent challenges at this point. The first was to either keep the canes within bounds, and cut off half the production, or build new supports on to the original pipes. The second was to find a market for the hundreds of luscious berries. Some of the canes were about 20’ long.
Reasons to love a thornless blackberry bush
- It doesn't have thorns to mutilate you as you pick.
- It requires minimal care - pruning once a year.
- It gives huge luscious crops of berries.
- It doesn't need fertiliser.
- Water it, and it will be your friend for life.
- Just like us, as it gets older, it gets better.
- The deer have no interest in it.
- The birds seem to prefer other fruit.
- It does not seem attractive to nasty little bugs.
What's not to love?
Every morning I would go out into the garden and spend a warm, grateful time just picking berries, and putting them into the little plastic boxes. Then I would take them, still warm from the morning, and deliver them to the supermarket. They were immediately snapped up, even though to my mind they were really expensive.
As our relationship blossomed and came to fruition, I learned to observe the berries and their bush carefully. My eye became practised at determining when the berries were actually ripe, so that I would not repeat my original mistake of 'black but still sour.'
On the day before they truly ripen the little seeds that surround the central core suddenly plump up, and this is quite distinct. At the same time the core becomes tender, and hardly noticeable when delicately savoured in your mouth.
As the weeks of picking went by, the berry production slowed. The supermarket had to supplement with berries from commercial enterprises, but I noticed they stayed around, while mine, more expensive, continued to fly off the shelf whenever I took them in.
Altogether 40 lbs went to the supermarket. We ate lots too, gave some away to friends, and froze bags of them for winter fruit and jam.
Here is a simple recipe for a delicious blackberry coulis (sauce) to eat with your Greek yoghurt, pannacotta, ice cream or pancakes. It is unbelievably luxurious, and you will never want yoghurt with fruit on the bottom again. Hope you can find some beautiful blackberries for this!
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: about 1 1/2 cups Blackberry Sauce
- 4 cups Ripe blackberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- Mix berries and sugar together in a heavy bottomed pot. Allow to boil until the berries are soft, and the sugar is dissolved, making a thin syrupy mixture, usually about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the stove, and pass the liquid through a sieve or strainer.. Leave to cool. Add your vanilla, if you wish.
- When it is cooled, you can use it on pancakes, ice cream, Greek yoghurt, or any other dessert.
- Store it in the fridge for 5 days, or in portions in the freezer. you will always have some at hand!