As the number of small family farms increases across Texas and the Southwest, so does the variety and number of fresh fruits and vine-ripened vegetables available to weekend tourists and Sunday drivers at pick-your-own/ready-picked farms all across a three state region.

While sweet, fresh strawberries lured urban/suburban road trippers and fresh food fans down country roads and to rural farms throughout the month of April, mid-May through the end of June should keep the crowds coming as ripe seasonal blackberries of several varieties flood the market.

Dr. Larry Stein, professor and horticulturist, is a fruit, nut and vegetable specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension in Uvalde and a leading authority on specialty crops. He says blackberries have very high production potential, and fresh fruit commands good prices, making commercial production of blackberries a potentially profitable fruit crop in Texas. But he says while commercial production is limited in the state, blackberries are becoming a popular and high-demand specialty crop by consumers who often buy them at family farms and farm-to-family outlets in every corner of the state.

“With Blackberries you can produce a lot of fruit in a small amount of space and there are not a whole lot of pest problems you have to deal with,” says Stein. “And the blackberry is more resistant to cold, especially the erect varieties, so recent freeze conditions in late April and early May did little to harm maturing blackberries, which are just now beginning to ripen and will soon be ready to pick."

Stein says most varieties of blackberries grown in coastal, south and central Texas begin ripening in early to mid-May and will last into June and possibly early July while longer chilling varieties will ripen and produce in June and into late July.

"For people just starting out and looking for a specialty crop to grow and market, blackberries would be a good choice. They produce well, handle the cold better than many other specialty crops and can produce volumes of sweet fruit," Stein reports.