There's a lot to anticipate while dreaming of the spring and summer months, especially the lush vegetation that graces our state’s beautiful landscapes! A favorite pastime of many is wild berry picking, which you can do right in your own backyard and in the wilderness that surrounds you! It's the perfect activity for camping, or just for an adventurous afternoon! Here is a handy wild berry picking guide, arranged by season! We've included some tasty recipe ideas too so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!
This delicious little berry can be found naturally right here in Michigan! Red raspberry plants are identified by their bright red berries, which are made up of a cluster of bubbles and will appear “hairy,” as well as skinny stems. These plants can grow to be over two feet tall, and grow into prickly bushes called thickets! Be sure to watch out for the prickles and brambles as you pick!
Ripe: Early as late June, continue to bloom through July and into August, depending on the weather
Red Raspberry Recipe Ideas
What can’t you make with wild red raspberries? They’re perfect for tarts, cakes, sauces, cobblers, mixed drinks, and so much more! If anything, make an incredible jam and put it on your morning toast!
These tasty berries are very similar to their red counterparts, but also so very different! They’re certainly a Michigan favorite, and are found primarily in places where the earth has been disturbed (where trees have been cut, etc.), but are also found near lakes, trails, roads, meadows, and other areas! They also grow in thickets, but unlike red raspberries, black raspberries are ripe in the early summer! These berries are a dark purple/black with tiny hairs, and are moderately sweet and not too tart, making them great for baking! They’re also great for you, with tons of fiber and antioxidants!
Ripe: Early Summer
Black Raspberry Recipe Ideas
There is nothing more refreshing than a nice black raspberry dessert on a hot summer night! Of course you can make a killer jam, but these berries make for unforgettable pies, smoothies, and cobblers!
This is where things get a little confusing! Delectable blackberries look very similar to black raspberries, but there are a few distinguishing characteristics that will help you to tell them apart! Both are a dark purple/black color, but blackberries do not have the little hairs that raspberries do, and instead of a hollow core, blackberries have a white core visible after picking!
Ripe: Late summer, making them easy to distinguish from black raspberries
Blackberry Recipe Ideas
Since blackberries are not too tart and are fairly sweet, they’re a favorite of many Michiganders in various baking recipes! Make a delicious sauce you can drizzle on pancakes or just about anything really, or make a tasty blackberry cheesecake! Blackberry jam is one of the most popular flavors out there, and its cobbler is divine, but you can simply toss some on a salad to take it to the next level!
Wild blueberries, AKA lowbush blueberries, are a favorite with berry picking enthusiasts, especially in Michigan! Keep an eye out for short bushes, up to two feet tall, with light green oval leaves. Berries grow in clusters at the end of branches with their characteristic dark blue color!
Ripe: July and August
Blueberry Recipe Ideas
Blueberries make for some of the best classic recipes! Whip up a cobbler or some easy muffins, or the ever-popular blueberry pancakes! They’re amazing in smoothies too, but feel free to be adventurous and try them in some tasty sauces!
Wild Black Currant
This semi-sweet berry is a good find indeed! Look for these bushes in wooded areas, along overgrown paths and along fields, where they grow about three to four feet high! They feature dark green leaves, and dark berries that grow in clusters at the end of branches.
Ripe: Mid to late summer, white flowers bloom in spring
Black Currant Recipe Ideas
These berries make a delightful jam, but their semi-sweet taste makes them a perfect pairing for a baked brie! They’re also perfect with chocolate, so whip up some cookies or a decadent cake!
Mulberries are a great source of nostalgia for many people, and aren’t what you’d call a “mainstream” berry, but are rewarding indeed! Mulberries greatly resemble raspberries and blackberries, but are much longer in length, giving them a unique look! They grow on large trees, and grow anywhere from woodlands to urban areas, making them great for beginners as they’re so easy to recognize! Picker be warned: do not eat mulberries unless they are ripe, as they are mildly toxic before they are fully ripe. They will be a dark purple/black color when ready to pick!
Ripe: Anywhere from mid to late summer
Red Mulberry Recipe Ideas
These tasty, mild berries are great for jams, sauces, syrups, or even a unique barbecue sauce! We don’t think anyone would complain if you opted for a simple, delicious mulberry pie though!
Also known as aronia, these berries are often planted as ornamental additions to gardens and landscapes, but they are delicious and equally nutritious! You will still be able to forage for them in the wild, as they flourish in shady, damp areas like around swamps or marshes, and around small bodies of water! These round berries grow in the center of leaves, and are a dark red/purple color when ripe!
Black Chokeberry Recipe Ideas
Black chokeberry wine is made in Poland, but if you lack fermenting skills, try putting some in a bread, breakfast bars, cookies, or in a tasty pie! They’re super high in antioxidants, so put them in a smoothie to up its nutrient content! They go well with other types of fruit, so make a delicious medley and enjoy!
These unique berries are different than their summery counterparts! Although these shrubs lose their leaves in the fall, winterberries persist long into the winter months! These berries were used by native Americans for medicinal purposes, but today they're mainly ornamental, so pick a sprig for festive decoration, or harvest the berries for a unique treat!
Ripe: Through the winter months
Winterberry Recipe Ideas
Although it isn't heard of often, winterberries are wonderful in pies, smoothies, tarts, and even in sumptuous trifles!
Things To Remember While Berry Picking
NEVER eat a berry without knowing 100% what it is first. Some berries have toxic lookalikes, so if you have any doubt about what your berry is, take it home and double check it before you eat it!
Berry bushes can grow alongside poisonous plants, so be careful! Pay attention to what you are picking, and always rinse berries before eating!
Be prepared for brambles. Raspberries and blackberries have prickles that can scratch you up pretty good, so make sure to wear long pants and sleeves if you plant to pick these!
Avoid areas where herbicide has been sprayed. A clean line of dead vegetation indicates the use of herbicides, and affected plants may not be growing as well as surrounding plants. Just avoid them and look elsewhere!
What are your favorite wild berries to pick? Where have you had the most success? Comment to share your berry picking tips!