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Blackberry hunting in Canberra

By Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) - 18 February 2017 11

A pile of blackberries on a plate

You could pay between $3.50 and $8 for a small punnet of blackberries. Or you could pick your own.

I am a huge urban forager. I must admit that the thought of eating weeds does not inspire many people, and I have been on the receiving end of jokes by my family. But eating wild blackberries – well, that is an altogether different thing.  Not only is it fun, but blackberries are delicious.

Blackberries grow so well in Canberra that they are a noxious weed. Once you know where to look you will see them everywhere. In late 2014 there were even media reports of helicopters being used to pour chemicals on them in Canberra.

But don’t worry too much about blackberries being laced with chemicals. According to urban foraging expert Susan Hutchinson of Susan’s Sumptuous Suppers there are always signs up to alert people to when blackberry bushes have been sprayed.  And the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services rarely sprays during blackberry season.

Last year was my first time to go blackberrying. I picked furtively at first, worrying that I was doing something wrong. But soon I began to notice others were doing exactly what I was doing.  And once I blogged about my experience and shared recipes, I found that other friends were interested as well. My vision is for Canberrans to get out and enjoy picking these amazing berries. And even better, for Canberrans to make blackberry expeditions a fun part of our bush capital culture. Why not eat them rather than poison them?

Blackberries were late to ripen this year, and I picked my first batch only last weekend. With the heatwave that Canberra is experiencing, they are ripening quickly and I expect the season will be short.  To set off on a blackberry expedition you need to wear long pants, and take with you a decent sized plastic container and band aids. They are prickly little things, and invariably someone will come away with scratches. But isn’t the adventure of scrambling for the perfect blackberries part of the fun?

Here are a few of my favourite places to find blackberries in Canberra:

  1. Along Lady Denman Drive, near the turnoff to the National Arboretum and down as far as the National Zoo and Aquarium.  This is a popular spot, and you are likely to find fellow foragers.
  2. The Jerrabombera Wetlands.  There are huge expanses of blackberries here.  Start at the Fyshwick end and discover.  The best are often off the paths.
  3. Coppins Crossing.  This area is being developed, but there are still large swaths of blackberry pushes.
  4. Along Lake Burley Griffin, near the Yarralumla Nursery.

Where are your favourite blackberry places in and around Canberra?

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
Blackberry hunting in Canberra
1
Melissa Carrington 9:17 am
18 Feb 17
#

I noticed a lot of people just up from the National Zoo and Aquarium last weekend. They were well and truely into the bushes during the heat of the day! I was thinking to myself at the time, I wonder how many snakes were around.

Those blackberries though Serina look divine!

2
Maya123 11:20 am
18 Feb 17
#

I keep meaning to go pick some blackberries to eat fresh and bottle. I have been busy bottling fruit; so far, figs, apricots, apples and plums. I have been given some rhubarb too to bottle. Plus I have made apricot jam.

It’s getting hard though to beat those bats to the home fruit. At night, the constant flap of wings, and they are attempting to eat ALL my fruit, and not waiting for it to ripen. So, I have had to bottle some not fully ripe fruit to beat the bats, which is a shame, never being able to eat the fruit ripe from my trees. I am seriously considering having wired enclosures built around the fruit trees. It will be very ugly, but I don’t know how to beat the bat menace, which has only in recent years descended on Canberra…no doubt attracted here by the backyard fruit. The paths have bat droppings, the walls of the house too, and the roof has to too, to then wash off in the water tank. Bats have become a HUGE menace. Were there any permanent fruits bats here in Canberra, say ten years ago? Does anyone know.

I’m guessing most the blackberries are safe from the bats though, because I can’t image those thorns and bat wings mixing.

3
Serina Huang 1:03 pm
18 Feb 17
#

That spot you mentioned is very popular. I have never seen snakes there, but good to wear long pants, decent shoes and tread carefully and loudly.

4
bringontheevidence 2:31 pm
18 Feb 17
#

Some poor advice here. While I appreciate that blackberries are a nice berry, they are hugely invasive and should be eliminated entirely from the region if possible.

Also, never ever go onto private land (including privately leased land) to pick blackberries. Not only are you tresspassing, you’re also opening yourself up to danger as private landholders don’t need to put signs up if they’ve sprayed. Further, ideal times for spraying blackberries actually overlaps with the berry season!

Most of the coppins crossing area is not public land. Pick there at your own risk.

5
HenryBG 2:48 pm
18 Feb 17
#

Hah! You’re not finding out my blackberrying spot.
The problem with picking blackberries in places like Lady Denman Drive is that a lot of muck comes off a busy road and settles on the berries. Also, it’s often relatively dry along there so you’d probably get small seedy blackberries instead of nice juicy ones you get by picking along creek banks.

6
HenryBG 2:50 pm
18 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

I don’t know how to beat the bat menace, which has only in recent years descended on Canberra…no doubt attracted here by the backyard fruit. The paths have bat droppings, the walls of the house too, and the roof has to too, to then wash off in the water tank. Bats have become a HUGE menace. Were there any permanent fruits bats here in Canberra, say ten years ago? Does anyone know.

No, there weren’t. Bats have over the last two decades increased to plague proportions due to dim and misguided animal rights loonies getting them protected. They should be eradicated.

7
Maya123 4:33 pm
18 Feb 17
#

HenryBG said :

Maya123 said :

I don’t know how to beat the bat menace, which has only in recent years descended on Canberra…no doubt attracted here by the backyard fruit. The paths have bat droppings, the walls of the house too, and the roof has to too, to then wash off in the water tank. Bats have become a HUGE menace. Were there any permanent fruits bats here in Canberra, say ten years ago? Does anyone know.

No, there weren’t. Bats have over the last two decades increased to plague proportions due to dim and misguided animal rights loonies getting them protected. They should be eradicated.

Two decades! I doubt it’s more than five or six years. But imagine how many will be here after two decades if their numbers aren’t checked!

I agree with eradication from a place that is not a natural area for fruit bats. A start would be to stop feeding babies which have fallen from the trees in winter, no doubt because of a combination of lack of food in Canberra in winter and the cold. This is NOT natural bat territory and a proportion of the babies not surviving is nature’s way to balance the numbers. They have only immigrated here because of planted fruit trees, and now they are devouring the fruit. I would be willing to share, but the bats WON’T share. They are eating the fruit before it ripens. It will now need a huge expense to build ugly cages around my fruit trees. And then because the bats won’t share, they won’t get any.
Last night there was the constant flap of wings, and the neighbour’s dog was regularly barking and growling; at the bats would be my guess.

And what about disease! Great having bat poo washing into the rainwater tank; not.

So much for grow your own; try to cut down food carbon miles. With bats this doesn’t work.

8
Russ 12:01 pm
19 Feb 17
#

2008 was the first time bats were a significant problem for us. Oddly enough, they didn’t come back in 2009, but in 2010 they returned in force. We tried every kind of deterrent you can imagine (strobe lights, lasers, bird-frite (explosive) cartridges, gunfire) and they ignored them all while they munched on the fruit, while often simultaneously urinating over themselves (they hang upside down) and the rest of the fruit in the tree below.

The only effective solution was erecting netting.

As for blackberries, there’s a fair few decent-looking bushes between the end of the airport runway and the river.

9
Acton 10:41 pm
19 Feb 17
#

These are grey-headed flying foxes. There is a large colony that roost in Commonwealth Park and every twilight spread out to feed. They are a nuisance and a menace. They screech, bite, scratch, spread fleas and disease, defecate and pollute water tanks.

The logical thing to do would be to shoot them. That’s what would have been done in more sensible times. But we live in 2017 Canberra and this is a city full of ineffective people who dare not act.

1. The bats roost at Commonwealth Park which comes under the jurisdiction of the National Capital Authority, so the ACT Government can’t do anything.

2. Grey-headed flying foxes are listed as a vulnerable species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, so there will be multiple grant recipients dependent on the bats for their livlihood.

3. Should any action be proposed the 1 or 2 member local branch of the Bat Appreciation Association will be appalled and write strongly worded letters to the Minister and Canberra Times.

4. The ACT Government is run by Labor and the Greens – meaning nothing will happen apart from a fact-finding study trip by the Minister to Noosa or Port Douglas.

5. The RSPCA puts bat welfare ahead of human welfare so will object to any culls or relocations, but may consider a fertility pill.

Nope, the only thing we can do is hope for some more hot days:

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/thousands-of-bats-drop-dead-from-trees-in-nsw-heatwave-20170213-guc8la.html

10
HenryBG 8:17 am
21 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

And what about disease! Great having bat poo washing into the rainwater tank; not.

Bats carry a disease – lyssavirus – that has proven 100% fatal so far, I guess the greenies want us to expect more deaths:
“In August 1996, a woman in Queensland was bitten on the finger by a flying fox while attempting to remove it from a child it had landed on. After a 27-month incubation a rabies-like illness developed. The condition worsened after hospital admission and she died 19 days after the onset of illness.”

And bats also carry hendra virus, which kills 3 out of 5 people who catch it (and 3 out of 4 horses), although that is probably an under-estimate because once you’ve caught it hendra is another disease that can suddenly re-appear years later and kill you in a few days.

11
MareeTK 4:48 pm
09 Apr 17
#

To those who were commenting on the grey-headed flying-foxes, I am afraid most of what you have said is incorrect. This is not your fault- a lot of mis-information is around about bats and in particular flying-foxes. Please refer to Bat Fact sheet, Facts on Australian Flying-foxes at this link: http://ausbats.org.au/bat-fact-packs/4562894228. The Grey-headed flying-foxes have had a permanent colony in Canberra at Commonwealth Park since 2003. They have over-wintered since around 2007 or so, although numbers are generally lower over winter. Numbers fluctuate over the year and between years depending on what food is around. Their natural and preferred diet is eucalypt (and related) blossom and rain forest fruits (eg figs). Naturally they also do like plums and other backyard fruit. To keep flying-foxes and birds from eating fruits you can net your trees but should use only wildlife-friendly netting to ensure no animals are trapped and injured: http://www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com/WFF/Netting.html Flying-foxes are not in plague proportions, the grey-headed flying-fox is a nationally threatened species. They don’t breed till they are 2 or 3, only have one young a year, and juvenile mortality is high. There are no diseases you can get through their droppings, spit-outs or urine, and they are not a flying-fox species associated with spillovers of Hendra virus to horses. If you do not handle flying-foxes (eg if one is injured or caught in your net, please ring a wildlife rescuer – do not attempt to pick it up or disentangle it) you should not be bitten. If you are bitten, you should wash the wound for five minutes with soap and water, and apply an antiseptic and visit a doctor for post-exposure vaccinations within a couple of days. While only a tiny number of flying-foxes carry lyssavirus, if you are bitten it is best to take these precautions. The post exposure vaccinations are 100% effective against lyssavirus if given before symptoms appear. So health risks are actually tiny. Droppings can be washed off cars and paving – they are not corrosive like bird droppings. And if droppings are in your garden, it’s great fertiliser. The flying-foxes are actually very important for long distance pollination and seed dispersal. Go along to Commonwealth Park and watch them fly out around sunset- it is an amazing experience. Perfectly safe to take a picnic dinner. And bring your international guests – they’ll love it.

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