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How To Get Worms Out Of Blackberries

>6 August 2013
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How To Get Worms Out of Blackberries http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Our very thoughtful neighbor up the road has been saving blackberries for me from her bushes. We spent a lot of time harvesting wild blackberries around our property this year, but the fruits were so tiny and sour compared to her thornless variety. When I first saw them, I couldn’t believe how humongous her blackberries were! They’re easily four times the size of the largest wild blackberries I’ve foraged. I’m excited to have worked out a plant trade with her later this fall, some of my raspberries for some of her blackberries. Both plants send off baby plants from the main stem, which are easy enough to dig up and transplant elsewhere, so trading will help us thin our beds as well as build our garden variety.

I’ve learned something from her blackberries that I never noticed with wild ones. Blackberries have worms. Teeny, tiny, white worms. They burrow deep into the center of the berry, where you’d never see them unless you cut the berry in half or you just happen to see one sticking its ugly head out.

Of course, once you know they’re there you’re inclined to want to cut every single berry into several pieces, just to make sure there isn’t a worm. But let’s be honest here. Who has the time for that? I’ve found a much better solution. And although I can’t guarantee you’ll get every single tiny worm out, you’ll feel much better about eating your berries once you’ve successfully removed a few.

It’s pretty much the same method that you would use to remove worms from cabbage or broccoli.

Fill a sink or large bowl full of ice water, and add about 2 Tbsp to 1/4 c. salt. Dump the fresh blackberries in, and allow them to sit for about 10 min. I like to gently swish them around to help loosen any die hard worms. Sometimes they will die, but stay clung to the berry. What you should see after several minutes of soaking is that the worms are floating to the surface of the water, or just below the surface. If you don’t see any worms, either there weren’t any to begin with or you didn’t use enough salt.

When you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten all the worms possible, gently rinse the berries in cold running water. You want to be sure not to squish them so that you don’t lose much of their juices.

Then drain and use right away, or freeze for future use. I’ve been filling a freezer bag until I have enough to make a good amount of blackberry jelly. I think I’d prefer the jelly to the jam, to avoid the seeds.

Anyways, that’s how easy it is to get worms out of blackberries! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to throw them all away?!

Have you ever found a worm in your blackberries? Do you have a different method of dealing with them?

 

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53 Comments »

  • kim said:

    OH gross! I was eating berries off the plants yesterday! UGH Never again! Thanks for sharing this, I never knew about it.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    LOL… we’ve all done it, Kim ;) I still eat them straight off the bush sometimes, but the thought of eating a worm is always in the back of my mind, lol.

  • Durablefaith said:

    Great post, thanks.

    Its funny how one man’s problem is another man’s food. Many farmers consider blackberries to be problems in their pastures. But foragers and homesteaders see their value as food for humans and birds. Humans see worms as problems, birds see them as food.

    What do we know about these worms? Do they add nutritional value to the blackberries? Can they live inside humans or are they digested as free protein?

    Entomaphagus much?

  • Lerin said:

    I’ve been de-worming mine as well. The first big batch I did the saltwater method, but I wasn’t happy with the berries after that. They broke down somewhat and of course tasted salty. I left them in over night though. The second time I just left them in plain water and that did the trick as well. Lots of drowned worms. Then lastly I rinsed some and put them in a ziploc bag in the fridge to deal with later. Lo and behold all of the worms had died and come out… I guess from the cold. Then all I needed to do was rinse them off.

  • Sheri said:

    I was so glad to see this post! I was washing my Marion berries and noticed the worms popping out of them. I didn’t soak them in salt water but just washed them well and picked out the worms then put the berries in the freezer for future jam making. I try to keep in mind that my fruits and veggies are garden grown organically and I have to share my space with other creatures. Cheers!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Durablefaith,

    You’ve added to the ewww factor with the question of whether or not they can live inside of a human. *Shudder* Hopefully if you chew them up well they won’t have a chance to survive, lol.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Good to know, Lerin! I first discovered the worms when I froze a fresh batch, and later discovered the worms had tried to crawl out and had frozen to the berries. Maybe all you need to do is refrigerate them?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s right, Sheri! It’s actually comforting to me when I find bugs in the produce. I figure if it’s safe for them, it’s safe for me!

  • Lori Who Needs A Cape? said:

    Ummm UGH…stomach turning as we speak! One more thing to clean more thoroughly :)

    Lori
    Who Needs A Cape? (Not Your Average Super Moms!)

  • Erika said:

    The local organic farmer I like to go to told me to do this to my blackberries a couple of years ago. Of course, since than I have been so grossed out about the thought of all the worms I have eaten over the years that I haven’t picked any. : ( I do like me some blackberries though so I guess they are worth the extra effort. : ) My farmer also warned me about pickin’ berries from roadside bushes and fence covering bushes. Many of those bushes have been sprayed with nasty chemicals. Try sticking to bushes you know have been around a while and haven’t been poisoned. blech!

  • Rebekah said:

    ewww, is it just the thornless variety? We have tons of wild blackberries here in Oregon, everywhere!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Rebekah,

    I’m afraid not, lol. Worms are going to be in any unsprayed blackberry patch.

  • ann said:

    A few years ago, one of our daughters went to the trouble of picking blackberries and making a pie for her dad. She didn’t eat any, but watched him eat it. A little while later, we found out she had found the worms, but didn’t know how to get them out. Rather than ask, she just cooked them anyhow and didn’t eat any.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s SO funny, Ann, lol! I can’t believe she just served them up, hahaha! Well, now you can tell her for next time around ;)

  • Sarah said:

    Good to know – we’re still waiting on our blackberries to ripen up, so I will definitely have to do this! I had a similar worm experience with our cherry tree…noticing them after having eaten many straight from the tree. YUCK! I’m thinking this would be worth a try on the cherries too!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Sarah,

    Since cherries have a harder skin, I’m not sure this would work with them. When I’m processing cherries, I cut them in half to remove the worms- though that can be time consuming if you’re working with a lot. Maybe a cherry pitter would do the same? Hope you get a lot of blackberries!

  • CAR said:

    Is there a good way to get worms out of frozen blackberries? I visited a U-Pick Farm yesterday and picked several blackberries. I rinsed them in running water when I got home and didn’t notice any worms. I refrigerated a few and froze the rest. As I was eating some of the refrigerated berries for breakfast this morning, I saw worms crawling in some of them. I will definitely salt-water treat these berries, but I’m not sure about the ones that I had already frozen before I realized there was a worm issue. Should the frozen berries be thawed, salt-water treated, and then re-frozen? The freezing will probably kills the worms, but I was hoping to use the berries in a cobbler that I will serve other people (who I like), and I would be embarrassed to have them see worms in it.

  • Nancy said:

    I just found the worms in my blackberries, thornless, Navaho. What a disappointment. Hartmann’s where I purchased the bushes said that the worms are the SWD or spotted wing Drosophila. The worms are the larvae stage. The adults are a type of fruit fly. I have been reading all about these on the internet. The grower suggested that I spray the bushes with Malathion. He has been using Neem oil but I guess you have to start that before the maggots appear. One website suggested picking the firm berries and disposing of the soft one in a careful manner. You don’t want them on the ground to turn into more fruit flies to attack your plants.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Lord, Nancy, PLEASE don’t spray your bushes with Malathion!! It’s a dangerous poison that will do you and the beneficial insects much harm. Try soaking the berries instead.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh gosh, CAR. I’m just not sure. You are right, freezing the berries will kill the worms. But they may not come out of the berries before dying. I’ll tell you what I would do, but you may not like my suggestion, lol. If it was me, I’d just pick off any dead worms I found on my frozen berries, and then proceed as usual. Most likely the worms will try to escape the berry before dying. You might also cut the berries in half and inspect them before cooking. HTH!

  • Laura Moody said:

    Good Morning,
    Guess it doesn’t hurt someone to eat blackberries with worms. I’m 82 and have been picking and eating these berries (with worms) all my life!

    On another subject, you mentioned egg shell calcium water for tomatoes. I have always just put crushed shells in the planting hole. How do you make a water calcium?

    Truly enjoy your website!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Laura Moody,

    You must have read about Calcium water somewhere else. I just sprinkle dried eggshells around my tomatoes and plants for a boost of calcium ;)

  • Nyx said:

    Hi Kendra,

    I’ve always followed the same ‘remove bugs, worms, residues’ method apart from using lemon juice instead of salt. It has the same result in that the debris floats and can be skimmed off the top of the water before final rinsing.

    I think that with my next batch I’ll split them 50/50 and try salt with half and lemon with the other and see which, if any, works better.

    Totally agree that blackberry jelly is delicious:-)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Nyx,

    If you experiment I’d love to know what you conclude :) I’ll have to try the lemon juice myself and see what I think. Thanks!

  • Kathleen said:

    Just got back from the u pick farm.Some of the blackberries got a bit mushed while being packed around ( my 6 yr old grandson was helping :0))
    Anyway…..sorted the berries as best I could….then into the pot on low …then I noticed the tiny white worms on a few berries as they heated up. I am so disheartend I don’t know what to do. I am sure that they have probably been in berries that I have processed in the past….but I didn’t notice them. I just don’t know if i should finish processing them or throw out the batch. :0(

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh gosh, Kathleen. I’m sorry!!! I know the feeling. If you can get over the ewww factor, the worms won’t do you any harm. It’s just mind over matter though, lol. Sorry about that! You’ve learned a lesson you won’t forget though. Next time, soak your berries first :) Don’t feel bad. I’ve got a ton in my freezer that I froze before treating. I’m sure they’ve got a few worms, too.

  • Britt said:

    We grow lots of blackberries, and have the same problem. Our solution–we freeze the blackberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then, we take them from the freezer and individually (berry by berry) remove the worms by flicking them off with a toothpick. We then bag them up and pop them back in the freezer. It is very time-consuming, but we don’t end up eating worms!

  • kuker lee said:

    is it ok just to not to worry about the worm and eat worm and all raw. if it is i’m in truble. other countries eat all kind of worms.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Kuker Lee,

    I’m sure we’ve all eaten worms in our blackberries at some point. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

  • Louise said:

    I soaked! I salted, I squirmed (as did the worms) .. And then I dismembered every single berry to be sure … Still too grossed out to eat any, so now they are in the freezer.

    Including picking and all that prep, took about 6 hours for half a kilo. Damn, no wonder they’re so expensive in the shops.

    Interestingly, commercially produced fare has an FDA allowance for amounts of bugs, and apparently amounts of rat hairs in peanut butter.

    That’s it, I’m never eating ever again.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hahaha… I’m sorry Louise! I know. The worms are pretty gross. I canned raspberries yesterday, and I kept finding more and more worms. I did the same thing- pulled most of them apart just to see if there might be more inside. Even when I thought I had them all, when I poured the hot syrup over the raspberries in the jars, a few more tiny dead worms floated to the top of the jars (and then were promptly fished out). Sometimes I think it would be better just not to know they are there, lol.

  • cptacek said:

    Would this also work for apples?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Not sure how apples would do, cptacek. You wouldn’t be able to soak a whole apple. I usually cut apples into quarters. If there are worms, they’re either in the core, or you can see a hole on the outside of the apple. Just cut the bad parts out :)

  • Calien Laure said:

    I don’t know whether to love you or curse you for this article! Now I can’t stop thinking about all the worms I’ve probably eaten – and wonder about the frozen packages I’ve gotten from the store. :(

    When I pick my berries, I usually fill a bowl then rinse the bowl in the sink a couple times. Once for the big leaves and bugs, then drain and fill again and let sit. Sometimes ants don’t like to let go on the first rinse. Then I drain, put a towel on the bottom of the bowl (so the berries aren’t sitting in any remaining water) and place it in the fridge overnight.

    The next day, I dump them out onto a cookie sheet and give them a good look for under- and over-ripe berries. Then I pack them up to use right away or freeze. I haven’t noticed any worms before, but I’ve had plenty of other critters. Now I’ll have to start looking!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    LOL, Calien Laure :) Sometimes ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? ;)

  • Michelle said:

    I thank you too for this article. I’m also grossed out by the worms in the berries. My freezer is full of fruit and I’m sure worms. I thought I hit the jackpot when my neighbour planted thornless blackberries and has invited me to have as much as I’d like. I was amazed at the size they grew (4 times as wild ones) but was so disappointed to find the critters in them. I did tell my neighbour and but he didn’t want to hear it and figured it was because I looked in a mushy one. It’s not just the mushy ones. I still pick them and thought I would ‘google’ to find a solution. The salt water sounds like a good idea and I’m sure it works, but I’m a busy mom and I think I’ll just eat my added protein. :-)

  • Krista said:

    Thank you for the tip! Blackberries grow like weeds here in Western Washington and one popped up last year on our back fence. We were picking them off and eating them all summer before I noticed the worms…once I saw that all of them had worms on the inside I couldn’t bring myself to eat them anymore and it grossed me out knowing that I had already eaten so many.

  • Jan said:

    Once you have picked the berries washed them and cooked them to make you jelly,why worry about the worms they go through the sieve. I’m sure you will eat more than that before you leave this earth, they probably make the flavour better

  • linda said:

    The ‘worms’ are actually the larval stage of drosophila melanogaster – the fruit fly. They are not known to carry any untoward disease pathogens so are essentially harmless if eaten (and there are cultures wherein maggots contribute to dietary proteins), the only real problem here is their ‘ugh’ factor.

    These larvae are usually hidden within the fruit so not easily spotted. The best way to get them to come out of hiding is in a container with a transparent lid.

    Sort the fruit to remove any badly damaged or inedible ones and place the remainder, unwashed, in your container. There needs to be enough ‘headroom’ so the berries do not touch the lid, cover and leave overnight or, at the very least, a few hours. The larvae will leave the fruit and make their way up toward the light, ending up on the lid. The visible majority can then be easily removed whilst the remaining few that might still be hidden amongst the berries will float to the surface when the fruit is washed.

    The reason for not washing them before placing in the container is that the more moist the blackberry the sooner it will start to perish – and you don’t want this to happen before you have had chance to enjoy them :-)

  • Moriah said:

    Is this a problem only with blackberries? What about raspberries?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Moriah,

    Nope, they’re in raspberries too. Check out my post: How To Prevent Raspberry Worms and The Spotted Wing Drosophila

  • Jody said:

    I only recently noticed these tiny white worms after soaking my blackberries randomly one day. Now, I do every time. Sometimes they appear, sometimes they don’t. I’ve never used salt water though. I would be afraid they would taste salty. I came across this page doing a search to make sure I am not the only one who has seen these worms. Glad I’m not alone.

  • tina said:

    ewww, thank God i read this. As i have the berries sitting in front of me, i saw a few small tiny white ones and they jump which is so strange!! i will clean them or not eat them. ugh, but i love my blackberries. wish we can grow blackberries in side the house.

  • lisa schirmeister said:

    i grow blackberries as well. my friend & i were canning berries, not making jam, and after pouring hot liquid over, sure enough floating on top were the little white worms. All the jars were undone & berries dumped in the sink & i added some vinegar to the water. did the swish thing & i hope all worms were on the surface. it was gross. never tried with salt, but could try that next time. don’t want to spray my plants. don’t like eating worms either.

  • Janice said:

    Do you need to do this for berrys you buy at the store?

  • Pete said:

    Thanks for the info. Growing blackberries and raspberries in Central Texas. I noticed these bugs this past week (and also, some type of beetle on one of the plants). I am going to try the lemon-juice + water soak method. For plant treatment, I am going to try a diluted orange oil spray.

  • Pete said:

    Update… I really enjoyed the blackberries this morning and no creepy-crawlies sighted :) Yesterday I put them in a bowl of ice water with a squirt of lemon juice for about an hour. I strained out the water and let them dry. I kept them in an open plastic baggie with paper tower in the fridge overnight. The lemon juice seemed to really enhance the flavor.

  • iris said:

    As I read the posts, I cant help but laugh. The worms have always been there or by nature live there. until most found out the critter was there, had no problem eating those berries right off the vine, wild and garden varieties. the easiest cleaning of the worm, is putting them in water for a few minutes until the worm drowns. no other formula is needed. happy picking!!

  • Doug said:

    Hello, I discovered the SWD maggots a few years ago here in Western Washington, I have made jelly with the Squezzo machine (which removes the seeds) for years with wild blackberries and have never seen a maggot. But a few years ago I planted my own thorn-less variety and ran fresh berries through the squezzo and hundreds of the maggots came out with the seeds. I have noticed that if the berries are not over ripe there usually is not a maggot in them.

  • jasmine said:

    This happened to me a few years ago and I was that grossed out I haven’t eaten a blackberry since! But I’m devastated as today I picked over 300g from my sole blueberry bush and yep you’ve guessed it I found 2 maggots! I’ve just left them as I can’t bare the thought of finding more. I’ll try both salt and lemon washing methods and then the fridge before I do anything with them. I’m so disappointed!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh no, Jasmine! I would just sort through the blueberries well, and toss any that have a tiny hole in them or feel a little more mushy than the others. It would be such a shame to throw them all out.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Doug, you made me cringe at the thought of all of those worms being squeezed out. Yuck!! Yes, you’ve gotta pick the berries *just* as they turn ripe. Anything overripe attracts the flies.

  • Doug said:

    Kendra, It made me more that cringe I was shocked and grossed out by them, but I just tried the lemon method with boysenberries, soaked then in water and lemon juice then lifted them out with a slotted spoon and found hundreds of the worms in the bottom of the bowl. I just hope it got them all.

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