We are at a critical juncture, my friends. A critical, tasty juncture. One berry season is beginning, and another is at its tail end.
A few days ago, the season for black raspberries began; they’re also known (around here) as blackcaps. Rubus occidentalis is the species we have in the northeast: they’re the shape of raspberries but black when ripe, and smaller, seedier, and tastier than true blackberries. Oh, you can argue for blackberries, but blackcaps are my favorite non-tropical fruit, so you won’t persuade me. They taste like summer. You can’t get them out of season. You can sometimes find them for sale at farmer’s markets, but mostly you have to pick them yourself, and eat them warm from the sun with purple stains on your fingers, a sprinkling of thorn scratches on your arms, and a great sense of satisfaction.
Go out and pick some. You’ll find them in ditches, and on the edges of fields and woods. Drive slowly around on country roads looking for a flash of black berries or of whitish undersides of leaves. It’s a good year for them, in the Finger Lakes area anyway (the rain we’ve been getting has made them bigger and less seedy). I think I’ve got enough to make a batch of jam.
And while black raspberries are going into full swing, the season for serviceberries, also called juneberries, is just ending. You can probably still find some to eat in the next few days, depending on the tree. A serviceberry tree looks like this:
Serviceberries taste like mild blueberries and contain tiny seeds that give them a hint of almond flavor. When ripe, they’re a dark blue-purple. I usually eat them out of hand, or add them to smoothies or oatmeal, but you could probably use them any way you would use blueberries.
They’re a perfect berry for urban foraging, because the trees are often planted as ornamentals. (Birds love them, too.) This public Google Map of edible fruit in the Ithaca area includes a bunch of serviceberry trees and also a black raspberry patch. Add more trees to the map if you find any!