It’s not too late to enjoy fresh Virginia blackberries

blackberriesVirginia blackberry season is winding down, but local sweet blackberries are still ripe for the picking.

At Newcastle Bee and Berry Farm in Louisa County, one of many pick-your-own farms across the state, blackberry season started in mid-July.

“It’s been a good year. The blackberries have been plump and juicy,” remarked owner Bob Jones. “We are getting close to the end of the season now, but we have a later variety, so people are still picking.”

Visitors can pick their own or buy berries already picked at the farm’s market.

“Right now, people are busy getting ready to go back to school, so we planted more early varieties to have them available earlier in the season starting next year,” Jones noted.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Virginia farmers grew 269 acres of blackberries that year.

Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the state is experiencing increased demand for blackberries, especially for pick-your-own and farmers’ market sales.

“Consumers like the fact that they can purchase locally grown berries at the height of flavor and antioxidant content. This demand makes blackberries an excellent niche crop for farms, especially strawberry and pumpkin producers relying on similar marketing methods,” Banks noted. “While the weather has dampened yields this year, the quality and flavor of this year’s crop is outstanding.”

AgriBerry Farm and CSA grows a variety of berries in Hanover County.

“It’s the tail end of the summer varieties of blackberries, but we are just beginning to pick the fall primocane varieties,” explained owner Anne Geyer.

Geyer said the season’s first berries were sweet and good for eating, whereas the late summer blackberries have a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness for making cobblers and jams.

“It’s been a lighter crop than usual this year due to cane diseases and the extended rainy weather; however, we keep a nice rotation of plantings going, and the berries have been juicy and flavorful.”

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