Blackberries by the gallons

It’s that time of year again in Kansas for the peak blackberry season. Before 7:00 am we picked 2 gallons. Blackberry season started about a week and a half ago with a light crop. The crop will progressively increase until the 25th or so and then declines the way it started. I planted a couple of acres 20 years ago. How are the blackberries doing in your area?

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wow, really nice crop.

Beautiful berries!!! What variety? I only have a 15’ row and mine are still green and small. Those will be great! Thanks for the pic.

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My Osage’s are just finishing up and the Triple Crowns are starting. Osage is a very good variety, it has a different flavor with more of a grape-y tone to it. Very sweet as well.

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Thanks IL847! Mrsg847 they are a very old variety that’s been in my family around 100+ years. My grandfather grew them and passed them on to me. As the story goes they are named health berries because they were the healthiest berry the grower grew out of many acres. Most berries the grower had were small and canes were spindly as blackberries typically are. The grower then found this monster berry in the patch that’s canes are very thick with large numerous berries. My berries came from the plants my grandfather bought from that gentleman that found that chance seedling. My extended family grows many acres of these berries as well because of disease tolerance, weather tolerance, and production. The berries were lost to the years amongst commercial growers if they were even available. Most people do not want these old varieties that had thorns. The plants can reach 15+ feet.

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Scott my berries are difficult to contain because they send many runners through the ground. I brush hog between rows to keep them in check. These are not the berry for a home orchard unless someone has a spot that’s flat and open to plant them. Your berries sound like a great choice! Another oddity I noticed about these blackberries is they do very well in clay that will not grow anything else. I bring this up because I planted some in rich soil and they are all vine and no berries. The berries will also not grow in one spot to long (10-15 or so years some 20+) before the row moves over a few feet. The soil left behind is rich and fertile from old roots and canes like it was tilled. I think they extract some of the locked up nutrients from the clay other plants can’t use.

I have 5 Chester, this is their second year and it looks like we’ll get a few handfuls from each. Still not picking; maybe a couple weeks away? They are not growing as vigorously as I’d like, but maybe they will pick up next year.

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Scott

How does the flavor of Osage compare with the other Arkansas variety?

Here are a few pictures of the plants. I parked the lawn mower next to them so you can see average size. Some plants are twice that tall and some are half this tall but I consider these the perfect height.

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@clarkinks, thats a great story about your heirloom, glad to hear you are keeping the tradition up! There are not many heirloom blackberries left. Have you compared the taste with other blackberry varieties? I have an old variety called Lawton, it makes huge berries but they taste like chemicals, there is some bad thing in the taste.

The only other one I have is Triple Crown. Osage is more grape-like; both are good berries. My Triple Crown are just coming in now so I will have a better comparison as I remember its flavor.

Scott,
The flavor of these blackberries are excellent. Kansas soil at times gives greens a metallic flavor when you first till a garden but after the first year or two it’s gone. I suspect those blackberries of yours are doing something similar at your house. The dirt may have excess nutrients that plant picks up. An example of one such mineral is cobalt which hybrid corn cannot pick up I’m told. Open pollinated corn can pick up cobalt and is used to prevent brucellosis according to many experts. I had problems with my honeoye strawberries giving that diet kool aid aftertaste and eventually stopped growing them.

Clark, I have had these for ten years and they are right next to my Triple Crowns which never had any of the bad flavor. It could still be something in the soil, there is no way to know for sure. Your berry is the kind of heirloom I was looking for when I got the Lawtons.

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I always give away plants every spring when local orchards and individuals ask for them. I think several people on the forum from Kansas are now growing them.

What do you call them? Maybe a family name? I think that is the most a bunch of fruit nuts could hope for, a plant that would always carry their name, like an heir.

Derby,
The name my grandpa got them under was “health berry” because they were the healthiest berry in the patch were the strain was developed. I made the old strain of that berry even hardier unintentionally because 5 out of 50 or so would acclimate to my soil , droughts, and wind etc and the others died. So you could say all my plants came from those improved strains that are even hardier. The weather conditions here are demanding on plants and not all of them have what it takes. These blackberries will grow from seed as well so new strains will happen in the future. Hopefully they will make life better for many future generations. In my family we have always grown fruits and vegetables that we pass around to each other. My uncle is growing my grandfathers grandmothers plums for example. Spraying is a new concept to me we decided on about 15 years ago. Everything else we grew chemical free as long as I can remember so many varieties are adapted to that chemical free approach. That approach does not work for apples, peaches etc very well.

Kiowa is #1 here. Can usually pick a couple of gallons in about 10 minutes, 3 times a week… last year, I was requiring friends who came to pick blueberries to take blackberries home with them.
The winter just past killed all the blackberries back to the snow line - only ones producing berries are some that were not trellised and were lying down, under snow cover; killed blueberry blossoms as well, so… no blueberries this year.

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Clark,

You and your family are blackberry gods! Wow!

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Since i really got into growing fruit 4 years ago, i have really become a fan of growing blackberry’s, they are very dependable producers year after year and require no spraying, at least so far, plus they are easy to freeze to enjoy year round. Considering my peach crop was almost all lost to a freeze and a major fireblight outbreak on my apple trees this spring, blackberry’s are my saviour crop this year.

We have around 10 gallon bags already picked and in the freezer, and in good shape to enjoy smoothies year round. Just finished off some blackberry cobbler last night, that is some might fine dessert.

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Lucky- Kiowa sounds like a great berry! Those extreme kind of weather conditions that killed those berries occur frequently in Kansas. In 1993 there was flooding , the last 5 + years drought, last year a pleasant winter, extreme cold and windshields , heavy snow etc are not unusual. This time of year drought and cracking ground again. The blackberries I have need to be able to go from 6 months of no rain to heavy rain almost every year. The thing that makes that possible is there height as the long roots tap the water table underneath where they grow. The taller the berry the longer it’s root system.
Matt- my family and I are just helping nature help itself with the hands off approach whenever possible. The genetics of those berries we cannot take credit for we just encourage it. When they were small I hauled water to them in old cream cans and packed straw around them because there was a drought then and the wind wipped those early plants to shreds. They died to the roots and when they came back up the cans were as big around as your thumb to accommodate for the wind. The stems were previously half that diameter or less. Like with apples or anything else nature takes time but the better genetics are there.
Chris- Disease like anything in nature evolves so we may be safe for today but long term we need new ideas. The blackberries I have adapt fast which keeps them ahead. I’ve seen their canes killed to the ground on over half the plants during a drought. When it finally rained the plants grew taller than ever. The weaker ones die and the stronger ones pass on their genes. We interfere with natures process and spray, water, fertilize etc which is mostly good but it does cause weaker plants. In the case of apples I don’t know another way to get a crop.

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Interesting theory. The wild black berries here have a very sharp bitter aftertaste that invokes a poison response. It isn’t something I taste until after eating the berries. Once it is on the back of the tongue it won’t go away for a hour, no matter what I eat or drink. Even coffee can’t overpower the bitterness. It’s a shame, the plants are so strong they have become invasive to me. They spread all over the place. New plants come up in the yard between mowings.

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