Wild About Wild Black Raspberry Pie 



If I believed there was such a thing as an aphrodisiac, I’d put my money on Carol’s wild black raspberry pie. Something about the look and taste of those shiny little beady-eyed berries really turns me on and once baked into a pie, their seediness is not so noticeable. Being encased in a lard crust doesn’t hurt the taste either. Nor does drowning it in cream.

A couple of readers recently mentioned that wild black raspberries were especially plentiful in their areas this year. That’s true here in north central Ohio too. That adds a bit of mystery to them. How can a wild berry in different states and different environments have an exceptionally good yield the same year? If ours in the garden had yielded heavily and the ones in the woods had not, I could brag about how smart I was to go to the trouble of transplanting some and babying them. But such is obviously not the case. My real purpose in transplanting to the garden was a bow to old age. Thrashing through the thorny underbrush in the woods on a hot and steamy day, with mosquitoes and deer flies singing lustily in my ears, is something I don’t want to endure anymore.

But I was also motivated by expert books that advise against transplanting wild raspberries into the garden. Being contrary I decided to see for myself.  I often read advice in garden books that discourages homegrown plants in favor of purchased varieties. I suspect that the main motivation for that kind of advice is to help out the commercial seed and plant growers. The argument in this case is that wild raspberries carry diseases that will soon show up in your transplants to the garden. For the record: my transplanted wild black raspberries have had no disease problems for six years. On the contrary, tame, named black raspberries I tried to grow years ago quickly contracted orange rust, a fungal disease.

I was always drawn to the black raspberry’s shiny sparkle and started picking them when I was a kid. They were abundant in a section of the woods that Dad had cut over for firewood some years before. Why they grew so luxuriantly there is hard to say. Virgin soil and a sudden release of energy because of the influx of sunlight? Picking wild raspberries is slow and tedious, but Mom would praise me to high heaven when I brought her a couple of quarts. I loved the praise as much as the berries.

The real drawback to growing any raspberry is the kingdom of the birds. In a year like this when the berries are abundant, we get enough to gorge on because apparently the birds get all they want from the woods. In lean years, we drive iron fence posts in the ground, set plastic jugs on top of them and drape the whole with netting. That is not foolproof but we get about as many as the birds do.

Black raspberries fruit on canes that came up the previous year as I’m sure all of you know. The old, second year canes should be pruned out after fruiting and you know that too. First year canes will bend over and root of their own accord in late summer unless you cut them off when they get to be about four feet tall. The books have elaborate systems for pruning and bunching the vines for better yields and easier picking. I tried all the methods over the years but now do as little as I possibly can. I cut off some canes, others I let root for a new row, don’t do any tying or training of vines around wires or trellises. The main thing, it seems to me, is too keep the weeds out, which is not easy work in those thorny vines. With so much other work to do in the garden, I think the important thing is to keep the patch small. That is probably old age talking, but eight well-tended and protected bushes with about four canes per plant, will yield about as many berries as you want, especially if you also grow a few red or yellow raspberries.  Remember, blackberries and elderberries are coming on just about the time you get tired of digging those raspberry seeds out of your teeth. A little bit of everything from the garden is better than a whole lot of a few things.


Brett, thanks for your comment. Carol says to tell you there is nothing original or unique about her pie recipe. It is like any other lard crust pie, be it apple, cherry or whatever. She says the hitch is getting good lard. You can’t buy it in grocery stores normally but must go to a butcher shop that still renders lard the old way. Gene

I grew up in NC NE (Bassett). Small world.

Berries have been great in SE MI. Neighbor’s mulberries were incredible and my black raspberries (started from a “stick-in-a-box” from Home Depot or somewhere) made a great comeback after 2 harsh winters and have been wonderful. Red raspberries are following suite.

Can I be an “unsuspecting neighbor” with that foist?

We have lots here in mid-Michigan, too, in areas that were select cut logged a few years back.
How about that pie recipe, Gene?

Pat Leary, hey that’s a good one “foisting off zucchinis on unsuspecting neighbors.” I’ve never tried steeping currants in vodka. I might try foisting that on unsuspecting neighbors too. Gene

In spite of the monsoon like weather, all of the small bush and cane fruits are outdoing themselves this Summer. While I do the loop picking the feral raspberries, my wife unloads the currant plants of their bounty. The raspberries go for pie and jams while the currants will infuse several gallons of vodka. A most delightful winter tonic after steeping for four months. As you say Gene, it’s on to the next round of fruit and foisting off zucchinis on unsuspecting neighbors.

I love to run the wild black raspberries through the little hand crank Victoria strainer to get the seeds out, or most of them. They make the best jam, jelly and preserves, with each little precious smear on a biscuit in mid winter provides a tasty flashback to summer. Diversity of foods and seasonal eating is just as natural as nature can be. Our black raspberries are about done in central Appalachia and the blackberries are just turning. Blueberries are loaded this year too and they represent one of mans best manipulations of natural plants. I happened to have a neighbor that is a grandson of the Darrow man that invented domesticated blueberries. His presence in the community has helped establish many plantings of an acid soil loving, no need to spray, annual yielding, delicious finger food. Happy seasonal food eating folks, great story as usual brother contrarian.

Big fan of mulberries here, too, curt. I’m going to take cuttings from our fenceline mulberries and plant them in other areas of our farm. Mulberries do well here in northwest Missouri and I might as well take advantage of the free bounty. I like making syrup for ice cream and pancakes with ours.

Here in north central nebraska lts wild mulberries that have been excellent this year.they are huge and so sweet that I think they were the best berries of any kind that Ive ever eaten.

It’s a big elderberry year here too. Anyone have a good recipe for using the picky little buggers?

“A little bit of everything from the garden is better than a whole lot of a few things.” Not only means you won’t get bored of eating the same thing every year, it also means that when one thing fails, there are plenty of other options available 🙂

I had to look up wild black raspberry as they looked just like blackberries to me. Now I will have to see if we really do have blackberries growing on our land (a transplant from someone’s garden because I have never seen them growing wild around here in Latvia, raspberries and redcurrants yes, but blackberries no). Wikipedia though assures me it is a North American plant though, so unlikely that it is anything but blackberry 😀

We got enough black raspberries for a couple batches of jam last year and then picked another quart or so. The last picking got put in the freezer as there were other things needing to be done right then. This past Winter was hard here and when the berries were brought out of the freezer, it was decided they would be baked into a pie. I had never tried raspberry pie before and blackberry was always my favorite. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Black raspberry pie is incredible. I look forward to the next.

I didn’t get to pick enough wild Raspberries to make cobbler but did get enough for my wife Carol to make a freezer of home made Raspberry Ice cream and it was really good as usual.We’re now getting our ‘tame’ Blackberries and she is making ice cream and Blackberry cobbler.So much for loosing weight(LOL)

Thank you! I like “a little bit of everything” and “doing as little as possible” 🙂 Pie sounds great, although we never have enough left for the pie, kids fight over them more ferociously than birds.

Here in SE Michigan, the wild black raspberries have been outstanding this year! I’ve picked some that rival our domestic red raspberries in size. Sadly, none have made it into the house for pie yet.

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