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Blackberry Picking Time

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Homemade blackberry pie will be on our picnic menu for the Fourth of July festivities.  I’ve been picking dark, ripe berries from bushes that seem to be having a very good year.  This reminds me that I need to share with a kind neighbor who gave us a starter plant last year.  The surprise is that we have so many mature bushes that were here before we even made this spot our home.  I’m not sure if they’re truly native or the result of a previous gardener’s work.

I’ve been reminded that you can’t get in a hurry picking berries.  The brambles are thick around the best picking spots on our property.  These are place we like to leave natural for wildlife habitat.  Of course, the blackberry plant itself is created with thorns along the stems.  So, after a few scratches on my legs, I returned to the house for jeans and a long-sleeved denim shirt.  It appears that about two-thirds of the fruit, still bright red, needs a few more days to ripen.  If I want the best picks, I’ll have to return again and again, never finding all the berries ready at the same time.

The girls were able to reach just a few berries independently, but they spent most of the time holding buckets for me.  I think we collected a couple of pints during our first round of picking.  I thought maybe we’d just lazily eat the blackberries by themselves.  Then, one daughter wanted to show off her clever rhyming by suggesting, “Let’s make a pie for the Fourth of July!”  Why not?  Mine may not look as perfect as the ones my mother or grandmothers would have made, but I can do the homemade pastry thing.  It brings back the memory that when I was growing up, a major holiday never passed without someone in the family baking a pie.

I remember being fairly young when helping prepare berries for pie.  I especially remember helping trim the tiny stems off the pea-sized, round gooseberries that my dad had picked up in the hills.  Mom knew exactly how to balance out the tartness with sugar to bake a pie that tasted much better than it sounds.

My favorite wild berry of all is the huckleberry.  These days, lots of people have common blueberries, but they’re not as good as huckleberries from the Ozark hills.  Huckleberry pie is heavenly.  Yet in my opinion, you don’t need a pie or even a bit of sugar to eat a huckleberry, because it tastes perfect by itself.

If I could find the time, I’d love to use some of my modest blackberry crop to make preserves.  It’s easier than I thought it would be, now that I’ve attended Canning College.

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