Summer means berries are ripe for picking/Brian Hess
Summer is upon us and berry-picking season is getting under way. There are a plethora of berries to pick in the Copper Country throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Right now is pretty much the start of the season with wild strawberries currently in full swing. Later in the summer more and more varieties of berries will start to ripen. If you are willing to tolerate the bugs, it’s time to get out and start picking.
Wild strawberries usually start to ripen in late spring and early summer. I noticed the first ripe berries just last week and they are still available now. Look for them in open fields and roadsides. Although they take a bit of time to harvest due to their size and density, they are well worth the effort. They are arguably much sweeter and flavorful than their cultivated cousins. That said, if you’re not looking to get out and pick, the Copper Country Strawberry Festival will be going on this weekend in Chassell, where you can fill up on strawberries. They may not be wild but the local strawberry farmers have been at it a long time and the berries are, in my opinion, much better than the imported berries you find at the grocery store.
The next couple berries to start to ripen are the raspberries and thimbleberries. Although they do not appear to be ripening at this time, by mid-July they should be ready for the picking. By the amount of blossoms showing up this spring, it should be a good year as long as the weather cooperates with some good moisture. Raspberries tend to have a shorter season and end around early August while thimbleberries can still be had as late as early September. Both of these fruit are great for making jams and jellies. These fruits seem to be widespread in the area but tend to occur around the edges of deciduous forest lands.
Around the end of July the blueberries and huckleberries should be ripening. I can’t get into to much detail about distinguishing the two because I really can’t distinguish between the two. The best way to tell is by the seed count. Huckleberries have approximately twelve larger seeds per fruit while blueberries have many more seeds. Other than that, the fruits and plants are indistinguishable. Both of these plants fruit from late July through August. They tend to be located in sandy coniferous or piney forests. If you are looking for them, looking in sandy soils along the lakeshore is a good place to start. If you’re not having much luck, there is always the Blueberry Farm between Rice Lake and Traverse Bay that always has berries during the season for purchase.
Blackberries are also prevalent in the area. They tend to ripen in mid-August and last until the end of the month. They are usually found in roadsides and the edges of fields. Their thorns tend to make them difficult to pick but with a little effort, the harvest can be quite rewarding.
Get out and do some picking!