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Home » Gardening, Kitchen Tips

How To Get Worms Out Of Blackberries

Submitted by on August 6, 2013 – 8:24 pm 65 Comments
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How To Get Worms Out of Blackberries

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?




  • veronica says:

    I bought some blackberries from a farm recently. I froze most of them, but kept some in the fridge. Then I noticed that the ones in the fridge have worms. Is there a way to get the worms out of the frozen berries after I defrost them?

  • Linda says:

    I had never seen worms in blackberries before yesterday, and came across this thread after doing a search. I soaked the berries in salt water, but alas, the only things that floated to the top were a few seeds, so I wound up tossing the whole batch. In retrospect, I do recall disturbing groups of small flies while picking. I have never experienced that before either. I will try to find a new picking spot and will be mindful of flies in the future.

    I have always washed the berries before making pie, but have never seen a worm before this batch.

  • Evie says:

    I have just spent two days and countless hours picking these little worms out of blackberries.
    First, I picked my own berries and found them after making freezer jam so I dumped it all out. Next I bought a flat at a local farmers market thinking that would be safer WRONG!! They had just as many if not more.
    I tried the salt bath method and it worked a little. Next I froze them and that helped too but I had to look at each berry individually which took forever and pick them off. When I made my freezer jam put them in a sieve first and then in a strainer but guess what, they were still in the jam. I can see them in the jar. They are dead but I still know they are there. I don’t know what to do – It cost a fortune to buy these berries and I can’t keep throwing them away but it kind of makes me sick to eat the jam. YUK!!!!!

  • Rebecca says:

    My aunt suggested to soak them in water and sprinkle some suger in. This is how she has always done it. I can’t say iv done it myself as iv never made it for myself but I thought I’d put the suggestion in for you all to give it a try :)

  • Jenny says:

    For everyone considering soaking their berries with lemon juice or vinegar in the water, both are acids and will have the same effect. The worms will die (of course) and the berries will have a bit of extra sourness which you can correct with extra sugar. I think lemon juice goes better in the pie or cobbler than vinegar but that’s a matter of individual taste.

    Good to know these are just fruit fly larvae. Unpleasant to look at but not harmful. @Shyan, fruit flies don’t naturally carry any diseases that humans are prone to, and eating the larvae won’t hurt you or your baby.

  • Hemi says:

    As me and my daughter found many bushes of blackberries, we stop and I tray one as they were so yummy delicious, I could not stop eating them, next day we went back to the stop with a big tray. This was so goo to be true, we pick two tray and I ate there from the vines until my tummy was full (now I say Yuck ! ). At home I rinsed well enough, I put them on the refri, next day the whole tray and I share a few with my husband. As I was eating my daughter was looking at me and didn’t wanted to tray not even one, she said .” mom those berries has tiny worms ” I thought she was givingme and excuse, Next day when I opened the refri I saw some little thing moving I watch carefully and I start noticing many many more OMG ! I wanted throw up badly, I went and dump the next tray to the compost. Yuck! I love love those wild blackberries but not the maggots, is discusting! What a dissapointment, ! I can’t stop thinking how many worms I ate, ! ! Ggghhhhh

  • Dawn says:

    I always rinse my berries, veggies, especially broccoli in a sink of water with a dollup of vinegar. Whatever was in them, dies and then floats. Works like a charm, and vinegar is typically used to preserve most things.

  • Shyan says:

    Kendra, i have too have a problem. I picked a whole lot of blackberries by the house and seen sooo many white worms. I put them in water writer sea salt an rushed them to the freezer. I’m thinking about picking the worms out and unthawing them as needed. But the problem is I’m 8 months pregnant! I love love love blackberries but will eating the left over worms harm my pregnancy or baby :( ! Help.

  • Claudia says:

    Kendra, I can identify with all those that are grossed out by the tiny maggots in berries. I have tame and wild blackberries and others and don’t want to eat them after seeing them appear in a bowl of berries in the refrigerator. The cold seems to draw them out. I wonder if vinegar water would work. I’m told that a bit of vinegar in the hens’ water will get rid of egg worms; thankfully, have not seen any of those! Most people are unaware of the berry worms and eat them anyway; my sons favorite dessert is berry cobbler with a lot of juice, but when I told one son about the worms he said that’s something he would rather not know! Thanks for your post. Claudia

  • Doug says:

    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.

  • jasmine says:

    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!

  • Doug says:

    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.

  • iris says:

    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!!

  • Pete says:

    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.

  • Pete says:

    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.

  • Janice says:

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

  • lisa schirmeister says:

    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.

  • tina says:

    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.

  • Jody says:

    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.

  • Moriah says:

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

  • linda says:

    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 :-)

  • Jan says:

    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

  • Krista says:

    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.

  • Michelle says:

    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. :-)

  • Calien Laure says:

    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!

  • cptacek says:

    Would this also work for apples?

  • Louise says:

    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.

    • 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.

  • kuker lee says:

    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.

  • Britt says:

    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!

  • Kathleen says:

    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(

    • 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.

  • Nyx says:

    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:-)

  • Laura Moody says:

    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!

  • Nancy says:

    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.

  • CAR says:

    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.

    • 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!

  • Sarah says:

    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!

  • ann says:

    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.

  • Rebekah says:

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

  • Erika says:

    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!

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

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

  • Sheri says:

    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!

  • Lerin says:

    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.

  • Durablefaith says:

    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?

  • kim says:

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

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