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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom



Oklahoma Fruit of the Month: Blackberries

The Song of the Blackberry Queen
My berries cluster black and thick
For rich and poor alike to pick.
I'll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,
And scratch your hand and arms and
I'll stain your fingers and your face,
And then I'll laugh at your disgrace.
But when the bramble-jelly's made,
You'll find your trouble well repaid.
- by Cicely Mary Barker

The blackberry is a small round fruit that grows on a flowering shrub or a trailing vine. Blackberries may be black, dark red, or yellow.

Each blackberry consists of a cluster of tiny fruits called drupelets, which grow around a core known as the receptacle.

Blackberries are often confused with black raspberries, but the receptacles of blackberries, unlike those of black raspberries and other raspberries, are eaten with the rest of the fruit.

Blackberries are eaten fresh or are processed for use in making jam, jelly, pies, preserves, and wine.

The US is the leading producer of blackberries. The fruit grows wild in most Midwestern and Eastern states, including Oklahoma. Blackberries are also produced commercially in Oklahoma.

Growers produce blackberry plants by cutting 6-inch sections from blackberry roots and burying them in loose loam. The roots are placed in rows about 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 meters) apart to ensure proper development of the fruit. Growers plant the root sections in early spring, and only fruitless stems develop during the first growing season. Fruit production starts the next year and reaches its peak in the fourth or fifth years.

Most blackberry plants live 15 to 20 years.

Blackberries to be sold as fresh fruit are harvested by hand. Those to be sold for processing are harvested by machines that shake the fruit from the bush. More than 90 percent of the blackberries grown commercially in the US are sold for processing.

Blackberry plants require special care to produce large crops of fruit. For example, growers prune the plants regularly. In addition, growers spray the plants with pesticides for protection against insects.

The blackberry is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae.