Archived Story

Blackberry season is here

Published 10:18am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two years ago, I gave up on getting rid of the wild blackberry bushes that spring up almost overnight around the edges of my garden patch… Instead, I decided to encourage their growth and applied some compost around their roots. This year, I have what promises so be a bumper crop. He first ripe berries appeared around July 4th and I picked enough to make a blackberry cobbler pie, the first one that has graced our dinner table in a long time.

Ouch! I had forgotten how difficult it is to pluck the berries from their stems without being pricked and scratched on the hands and arms by their razor-sharp thorns.

That didn’t seem to be a problem years ago when my siblings and I were tasked to go blackberry picking about this time every July. Resistance would’ve been useless. Blackberries were a staple on our farm.

With 10-quart buckets in hand, we’d traipse off down the road looking for big black berries ready to be picked at least two or three times in a season.

Blackberry bushes weren’t hard to find. They grew on hedge rows., ditch banks,  stream banks and low-lying bottom land. Upland berries ripened quicker and were easier to reach but were smaller and dried up in a hurry under hot, dry weather conditions. Lowland berries were bigger and more desirable but harder to pick and more likely to offer a comfortable habitat for cottonmouth moccasin snakes.

A picking would last two to three hours, or until every bucket was filled. The blue juice from the berries stuck to your fingers like indelible ink and resisted even harsh scrubbings with lye soap. Furthermore, the pricks of the briars would take two or three days to heal, just in time for another picking.

Our mom worked miracles with the berries. She’d wash and cook them on her wood stove, use some of them to make a cobbler pie and preserve the rest as jam, jelly and canned whole berries for use later in more cobbler pies.

What a joy it was to dig into one of her cobbler pies for a Sunday dinner dessert or load up one of her made-from-scratch buttered biscuits with blackberry jam or jelly on a cold wintermorning.

Blackberry bushes not only produce edible fruit, they can be used to predict the coming of spring as well. Farmers of old swore on their blooms being a dependable sign of the end of freezing weather.

Perhaps I’ll let the backberries stay for another year. It’ll be fun waiting and watching for their first blooms and savoring the next fresh cobbler pie from their berries.

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