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Sleeves down, spirits up - it’s berry season!

Sleeves down, spirits up - it’s berry season!

Ramble for brambles to enjoy a wild berry cobbler

Despite the summer heat, I apply bug spray, long sleeves, boots and overalls before my expedition into the woods. Why go through this armoring? To gather the best delights of the summer forest – juicy, sun-warmed bramble berries.  

Although the prickly thorns of brambles, especially blackberries, may demand a bit of sacrifice from overeager pickers before giving up their fruit, the scratches are worth it: berries seem to taste so much better when plucked from a sunlit thicket than from the grocery store. 

Easy-to-identify compound fruits like bramble berries, which are actually many small fruits grouped together, are a great entry-level foraging target, especially for kids who will enjoy their sweet flavor (always make sure to check their haul before eating to make sure they’ve harvested the correct berries.)  

In Michigan, brambles, members of the rose family that grow on thorny or hairy canes, include raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, and the treasured thimbleberries which are mostly found in the Upper Peninsula. 

As you start your foraging adventure, be aware that other critters also love summer berries. Don’t be afraid to make noise, sing out loud or stomp about in the forest to establish a presence in the berry patch and ensure you don’t end up nose-to-nose with a berry-hungry bear. 

After sweating and stamping through the patch to earn your foraged treats, bake up an easy berry cobbler to savor the sweetness of summer.  

Wild berry cobbler in a cast iron skillet

  • 1 cup flour 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1 stick butter or nondairy substitute  
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp almond extract 
  • Zest and juice of one lemon 
  • 1 cup milk or nondairy substitute 
  • 2 cups fresh bramble berries (blackberries, black raspberries, raspberries, or a mix of several) 



Step 1: Make batter 

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a bowl with a whisk. Mix vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest and milk in a separate bowl, then combine with dry ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350F while you work. 

Step 2: Heat butter (or nondairy substitute) 

  • Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until just starting to bubble. Remove from heat. 

Step 3: Pour, add berries and bake 

  • Pour the batter over the melted butter – no need to mix. Scatter berries over the batter and sprinkle with extra sugar for a crisp top, if desired.  
  • Bake 35 minutes or until golden and serve warm or cold. 


ID and gathering

Bramble ID – Rubus spp. 


To gather bramble berries including raspberries and blackberries, look in sunny areas near woodland edges or open forests. The edges of clearings and trails are good places to start. Avoid the edges of busy roads where plants can pick up salts and pollutants. Wear long sleeves, sturdy pants and ankle-height boots to avoid scratches from bramble thorns. Pluck ripe berries into a bowl or colander – they should give easily. Unripe berries will cling to the plants and are sour to taste. Use a wide dish to avoid the weight of berries smashing each other, especially when picking delicate, ripe raspberries. Refrigerate or freeze to store your haul when you get home.