Bill Moeller Commentary: It’s the Berries — OK, and the Pies


This newspaper carried an article a while ago that originated in The Bellingham Herald concerning blackberries grown in the wild. That may be a redundant description because I don’t know of a single person who deliberately plants blackberries in their garden.

They’re too easy to find along a country road, or as in my case, growing prolifically on the other side of my lattice fence. The article mentioned three varieties: the Himalayan blackberry, the evergreen blackberry and the trailing blackberry.

I know what the first two look like, and I’m sure you probably do too, but I’ve never heard of the third kind listed. I had to assume that it was what most of us call the “true wild blackberry.”

A search on the computer verified that trailing blackberry is indeed a proper name for that variety and it is the kind that can be made into the absolutely best pie this side of the Cascade mountain range.

You might be interested in the fact that, while the newspaper called it trailing blackberry, its official name is rubus ursinus. Ursinus is Latin for bear and the berry bushes are very closely related to bears, as we all know.

This blackberry is not as easily found as it was 80 or 90 years ago, mainly because it is most prolific when it can begin growth in property that has been recently logged, and that isn’t as easy to find as it used to be. Once other growth takes over the land, the species just seems to fade away.

A few years ago, I used to be able to find them in a place where Ham Hill Road meets Logan Hill Road, on property that had been logged a few years earlier by a friend.

The growth of competing greenery — combined with a steadily increasing amount of freshly deposited evidence that a bear had recently been there — was enough incentive to tell me that I need to put my small bucket away and concentrate instead on the more easily harvested Himalayan berries. That variety, without too much effort, can be turned into a rather pleasing wine.

When we moved to the house where I grew up in Tacoma, we were two blacks past the end of paved streets and three blocks shy of the end of the streetcar line.

Remember them? So, when I read the piece recently here in this newspaper, I was confused about the nomenclature of “trailing” blackberry.

We kids just called them plain, old blackberries. We recognized them and there were three of us who tried to beat each other to a few local patches. Remember, this was within the city limits of Tacoma.

Thinking back, there was no argumentation amongst us and none of us tried to pick any berries that weren’t fully ripe. In a season that was usually complete by the time school started up again, we generally were able to pick enough to provide our families with around three of the most delicious pies this side of heaven.

I remember seeing one ad in a local business paper earlier this year offering just such pies for sale. Sadly, when I thought about following up on them, I had already taken that paper to the local recycle station and the ad never repeated that I could see.

Oh well, maybe it will appear again next year. And if so, hopefully, I’ll sure be looking for it and some pie without a smoky flavor.


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at