I never realized how many blackberries were in Washington until a friend visiting us pointed all the Himalayan blackberries bushes out. Once I learned what they looked like, I noticed they are literally everywhere!
Luther Burbank was a plant enthusiast in the 1800s who created many famous hybrids including the Russet Burbank (the potato that McDonald’s uses for French fries). While he didn’t create the Himalayan blackberry, he was the man responsible for popularizing the plant in the United States.
He was trying to create a berry plant without thorns and cross-pollinated different varieties to experiment with colors and flavors. He received some blackberry seeds he had imported from India, which he found grew vigorously and had sweet berries. Burband named it the Himalayan Giant (although it apparently originated in Armenia). He worked with plant wholesalers to distribute the Himalayan blackberries; the bushes grew like crazy in temperate climates like the PNW. Birds and animals further spread the seeds everywhere (source, source).
By the 1900s, Himalayan blackberries became seen as a nuisance due to their invasiveness. Unfortunately their deep roots and thorny crowded out native species along waterways and impacted salmon populations (source). They were listed as a “Washington State Noxious Weed” in 2009. Despite people trying to get rid of them, they’re the most invasive species in Seattle’s forests.
If you can’t beat them, bake them!
On our daily walks around the neighborhood, we have been collecting wild blackberries – I’d estimate we picked 6-7 lbs in the last few weeks! We made this delicious jam which is easy, low sugar, and does not require pectin. Recipe is adapted from Practical Self Reliance (which gives a lot of great tips on jamming).