Saturday, September 03, 2005

blackberries are plentiful too


While Rebecca is gathering cranberries, we are growing fat on blackberries. They are in every wild meadow at this time of year and tantalize with fat juicy clusters, the best always well out of reach to anyone but the birds or those who have the foresight to bring a ladder. One could say they too are ‘plentiful’ (that lovely word – with its liquid ‘l’s and soft vowels that make it a pleasure to repeat – though Rebecca’s daughter was chagrined [probably another golden-oldie] to see it back in use, claiming it was best left undusted and in the archaic cupboard).

A few weeks ago on our walk to Ducks Unlimited we brought along zip-lock bags for picking. What a bad choice! E’s bag had grown quite plump when he snagged it on a bramble. Of course it sprang a leak and the only way we got it home without dripping black juice all over the car was to zip it up and transport it zipper side down. Since then we’ve picked some more, but always in plastic buckets.

Blackberry picking also has a dress code: cover as much of your body as you can. Thick fabrics (cotton, denim) are best because the blackberry bushes around here, at least, are vicious. Even pickers protected by hat, gloves, long sleeves and pant legs pay for their booty with scratches and thorny splinters. It helps to bring along garden shears.

What do you do with blackberries? We keep fresh-picked ones in the fridge unwashed, and rinse them just before using them to top cereal or yogurt. I have in the past past also made blackberry jam. But of the brambleberries, I prefer raspberry for its tartness (blackberry jam is somewhat bland), plus blackberries are even seedier. The thought of dealing with all those seeds by mashing them through a colander or squeezing through a jelly bag is entirely too daunting and would spoil the pleasure of this August/September windfall. I did freeze a bucketful, though, for adding to muffins in the winter.

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