Suburban Foraging - Blackberries

summer is here!
Although we would truly rather be in the middle of nowhere, we are very lucky to live in a suburban neighborhood that backs up to a 600 acre property free of commercial development.  It is a great place to run, walk the dogs, alligator watch...AND forage for food.
The property is teeming with plant and tree variations. 
During our trip the other day we found blackberries about to ripen.

Obviously, we would never pick or eat something we did not recognize.  There are lots of sites and books about plant recognition.  The only concern floating around in the back of my mind was if picking the berries would negatively impact any animals who use them as a food source.  I found an organization actively foraging in urban Portland, Oregon called Urban Edibles.  The group has a nice set of guidelines concerning the ethics of foraging in or near a city:
  • Ask permission
  • Take only what you need
  • Gauge the impact you will have
  • Consider chemical contamination
Although we did not have direct permission, the open land beneath the power lines is fair game.  While I don't know for a fact that they have not been treated with chemicals, their expansive growth shows that they are not being sprayed to kill.  Pesticides don't seem to be a concern either since they are not being cultivated - I had to wade through in jeans, long sleeves and boots to keep the thorns at bay.  And I have rationalized...with a mile long stretch full of brambles, I think the deer won't miss a few handfuls every few days.

When we are reassigned to a new post next year, I may attempt a little guerrilla gardening when we move.  I just might move all of our backyard crops from their pots and beds out to this berry patch for the next suburban passerby to forage.