Berry Picking at the Bulb

Dang, a little too early.
My all time favorite berry picking haven is the Albany Bulb which hosts epic patches of wild blackberries.  My favorite patch is near the palm tree grove with the bushes further inland which tend to get more warmth. The joy of berry picking at the Bulb over the hills is that there is no danger of brushing up against poison oak and one can be quite aggressive in leaning into the bushes.

Early July tends to be generally the start of the ripening and the quality and quantity depends on the rains that season. El Nino and late rains produce the best bumper years.  Surprisingly even within an acre, the flavors can vary from bush to bush either from soil conditions or genetic variation. My favorite is a bush that tastes a little gingery. Some bushes produce intensely floral berries. Some have a distinctly concord grape taste. There are also dud bushes that just taste uninterestingly sour even though the berries are promisingly plump.  I sample from each bush as I go along although I have not been able to make any reliable generalizations or find noticeable consistency over the years.

The joy of wildcrafting is tasting hyper ripe intense berries that disintegrate in your hands.  Of course you have to tolerate a bit of scratching but one has no right to enjoy wild blackberries without it.

My favorite patch.

Although I could pick bushels, I try not to be greedy and limit myself to two plastic tubs.  I'm pretty much gorged on berries by the end and these are for my husband.

Hster's Tips For Berry Picking At the Bulb and Elsewhere 
Be prepared during summer season, always be ready to pick even if you only have a plastic bag. I always have a plastic bag in my purse. If I explicitly go for berry picking, I have an old REI purse with 2 plastic containers I use for on the spot sorting overripe berries.  I normally take a bottle of water to rinse the berries to eat on site although I've eaten directly off the bush without any ill effects.
  1. At the Bulb
    • Pick berries away from the crowd further away from the parking lots and the beach.  Pick berries above 1 feet, this is a dog heavy park if you get my meaning.
  2. In the Bay Area, poison oak is endemic, make sure you know what it looks like and don't pick from bushes that have poison oak near the base.
  3. Wear long pants and sleeves and tie back your hair.  Bushes often take revenge and will scratch you You're going to get a few ants crawling up your arm. Tuck in your shirt. Zip up your jacket. Make your clothes snag proof as possible.  I've gotten knees pretty scratched up before so I try not to go berry picking in shorts. 
  4. If the berry doesn't pop off easily, it's not ready.
  5. Take your time and make sure you keep strong balance. Don't be too greedy in overreaching- accept the limit of your arm length.  Falling into the thorny embrace of a blackberry bush is no fun.