Updated: Dec 23, 2022
One of our easiest local foods to forage in late summer on the west coast is himalayan blackberry.
Rubus armeniacus is listed with the Invasive Species Council of BC as an invasive plant. As the latin name suggests, it originated in Armenia. On roadsides and disturbed areas it can take hold, sprawling its prickly canes all over the place. Himalayan Blackberry grows quickly and canes can grow up to 12 meters long! Then where the cane tip touches the ground, it can root and start a daughter plant. It will take over all the space it can, hogging space that would otherwise be full of native biodiversity. Seeds are also spread by birds.
As many of us around here know, from the perspective of a hungry forager, human, bear, or other, sweet ripe himalayan blackberries are delicious, though invasive. If you like easy gardening, this plant produces delicious berries without any supplemental water or fertilizer.
In our garden we have a spot where we have encouraged a blackberry vine, and we are now visiting that spot for in-garden snacks regularily. I pull himalayan blackberry out of my raspberry patch and everywhere else though.
Managing this plant in our home gardens is key. Grab some gloves and a pruner.
Blackberries, like raspberries, have primocanes and floricanes.
Primocanes are long spiny branches with no berries.
In the following year, the primocane becomes a floricane, it develops flowers. Then bees come do their job of pollination, and then it will fruit. Primocanes become floricanes year after year. Cut back floricanes when the berries are done, these canes will not produce fruit again. If you leave the root crown in place, the plant will grow back. You’ll gain the space back from those snaggly brambles! The spiky canes can be used as a deterrent to some pests. Build a little fence out of them to keep cats from pooping in your garden.
If you find himalayan blackberry in a bad spot, such as in your veggie patch, you will want to remove it. Cut off all the canes and then dig out remove the entire root ball.
If you have a space you can designate for blackberry growing, just be careful to maintain it.
Cut it back often and ruthlessly, it will grow back. Since it in invasive, a garden isn’t even necessary to enjoy this local food. Take a bucket out for a walk and find yourself a patch.
At the school garden this summer we have battled a lot of himalayan blackberry canes that would like to sprawl from their root crowns deep in the rock walls onto the other growing beds by simply keeping on cutting them back. In the wild patches around the outside of the school field, blackberries can be found.
There are also other wild berries all around us to enjoy as you wander this fall. Blackcap raspberry is the native species that resembles blackberry. Salal is everywhere and ripe now. Red huckleberries and evergreen huckleberries round out the favourite local berries of the fall!
Happy growing and eating,