2010-07-23 / Opinions & Editorial

Take a hike for berried treasure!

BY JOE LORUSSO

Ah, the summer hiking season is in full swing. With an abundance of mosquitoes and deer flies, hiking during these times can be challenging… maybe annoying is more the right word. Simple precautions such as bug repellent, hats, long sleeves, even a bug net over your hat and common sense can help mitigate these annoyances. Anything that will get you to your goal - Leominster Trail Treasure, in this case, wild berry picking.

At the moment, mid-July is peak season for blueberries, and there are many places along the trails that blueberries just flourish. Some of the berry pickers have been going to the same places year after year, for 40 years or more. These places are no secret, just get pointed in the right direction and do a little exploring. I started my exploring a couple of years ago and my trail treasure this year…over 18 lbs of wild blueberries in the first weekend of this month and didn’t even put a dent in the amount of berries that were ready.

That’s why these places are no secret, there is so much available for such a short time, it’s great to see folks picking and not letting them go to waste. With a couple of different varieties ripening at different times, I expect the blueberries to be available for the next couple of weeks. The low bush variety is peaked now and the taller is just ripening up. So… a point in the right direction for blueberries, National Grid’s power lines, legal to hike and berry pick to our hearts content, not to mention, National Grid has recently done a lot of hard work improving the trails/roads that travel through and along the lines.

Next up are the blackberries, and they are literally everywhere. There are some along the power lines too, but they can be found on almost every trail in the city. My guess is the last weekend in July and beginning half of August will be prime time, although, while I was picking blueberries last weekend, I was also picking and eating blackberries. They were just starting to come into their own. I have found they prefer slightly more shade, but still can usually be found in easily accessible areas. Really no need for pointers here, a reasonable amount of time hiking around will lead you to your own favorite spot, my preference is Prospect Park, but you’ll have to hunt around a bit to find them.

Last, but not least are the wild grapes, Concord Grapes from what I’ve found. Like the blackberries, they can also be found in semi-shaded areas along the trails. Big, large bunches, it doesn’t take a trained eye to spot these and this looks like its going to be a banner year for them. The best season for them is September and early October. I have a few special places, one is Barrett Park where I picked 5 lbs last year in about 20 minutes. Sholan Farms is another spot, hiking out in back on the wooded trails, you’ll find wild grapes, red and black raspberries and blackberries.

The absolute best way to find these berried treasures is to go out and hike these trails! Keep your eyes open through-out the year, recognize the plants and their blossoms, and you’ll know right where to go. More information on Leominster hiking trails and parks can be found at www.leominster-ma.gov, www.sholanfarms.com and www.leominstertrailstewards.org.

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