This post first appeared as part of the 3six5 project.
Six pints of blackberry preserves. Six blackberry popsicles. All produced from what my wife and son and I picked this morning in our backyard. In fact, except for a jar of marmalade, there hasn’t been store-bought jam or preserves on our table for nearly ten years. And for many of those years we made apricot preserves from the tree in our yard.
That was in Los Angeles but now we live in Portland, Oregon, where the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive weed that crowds out native plants. And while it’s true our son was born in California (I grew up on the East Coast and my wife was born and raised in China), perhaps a few Oregonians consider us to be among the Californian horde invading their green and fertile land.
But if the misunderstood Himalayan blackberry has made a home here, so can we.
What do I mean by the misunderstood Himalayan blackberry? Its scientific name is Rubus armeniacus, meaning it actually comes from Armenia! Which means the high Himalayas have been unfairly blamed for this tough plant that takes over backyards, wetlands and any untended strip of ground along the road. What’s more, it’s not even a true berry but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets.
However, does it matter if the Himalayan blackberry is from the Himalayas, Armenia or the Willamette Valley? Does it matter if it’s not actually a true berry? The fact is these blackberries are enjoyed by animals and people all over the Pacific Northwest and that they are here. Just as many people who’ve recently moved to Portland have introduced new ideas from where they came from to the general population.
Of course, we’ve learned a lot from Portland, too. In California, we never used raised beds to grow tomatoes. But in this part of Oregon the summer days may be long, yet the growing season short and the spring temperatures cold; and so we learned to make raised beds to warm the soil. Adapting is how organisms succeed. The Himalayan blackberry adapted well far away from home.
We’ve now lived in Portland for less than two years and we’ve learned from everything, including the blackberries.