Crop Spot: Michigan Thimbleberries, Raspberries, and Blackberries

Bring on the summer fruit! It’s berry season in Michigan and there’s plenty to nibble on throughout the state whether you source it from your backyard, favorite roadside stand, or local farmers market. No matter your method of berry acquisition, you have plenty of options when it comes to determining how to enjoy them.

What do thimbleberries taste like?

You may be familiar with the tart taste of raspberries or the sweet, juicy burst of a blackberry bite but have you tried a thimbleberry? Although similar to other tart, yet sweet, berries, these delicate red fruits are characterized by their slightly musky, honey-like aftertaste. Because of their thimble likeness, feel free to situate them on your fingertips and perform your own taste test!

Berry Picking in Michigan

Looking for berries in the wild? Each has its own set of unique characteristics. Blackberries and raspberries grow on thick, arching stems, called canes, while thimbleberries appear on shrubs at the end of delicate, short stems. In the Upper Peninsula, thimbleberries are especially popular and found along roadsides, particularly in areas of post-soil disturbance regrowth. 

When foraging thimbleberries, there’s no need to wear protective gloves but if you come across wild raspberries or blackberries, watch out for thorns! If you’re visiting a u-pick patch, most growers select thornless varieties for their customers so you don’t have to worry about a prickly picking experience.

Looking for a berry farm near you? Conduct a simple search in our Find Local Food & Farms Directory and enter your zip code. Once you’ve located a farm, head to their website or call for more information. Make sure to follow these 3 U-Pick Tips for Your Next Michigan Harvest to maximize your experience!

Thimbleberries on the Trail: Photo courtesy of Paul Green.

Freezing & Freeze Drying Berries

It’s hard to resist eating fresh berries on the spot, but if you’re looking to extend your enjoyment of summer berries, freezing and freeze-drying is a sure bet. 

For Freezing: Plop your fresh berries into a bowl of water to rinse and filter out insects, set them on a towel to dry, then fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with your harvest, seal, label, and date. Your frozen berries will retain their summer flavor for up to a year and are excellent in smoothies or pies.

For Freeze Drying (with dry ice): Rinse and dry your fresh berries and place them into a freezer-safe bag. Pack your berry bags into a cooler and cover them completely with dry ice. After about 24 hours when they’ve completely freeze-dried, remove the bags from the cooler and store them in a pantry or another cool, dry location.

Michigan Berry Recipes

Be it the garnish or center stage, Michigan berries can be used in an array of savory and sweet dishes and drinks. So, go ahead! Find a Michigan berry or two (or two hundred) and taste a bit of summer for yourself.

Further Reading

Emily Row is the Brand and Media Manager at Taste the Local Difference. You may contact her via email [email protected]