Blackberries worth thorny price
Springfield State Journal-Register
Back in mid-June when the days and nights were steamy and it rained an inch or two every day for a week, the wild blackberry bushes were full of blooms. That could mean a bumper crop of plump, juicy, wild blackberries.
That’s the good news. But abundant precipitation was also good for the weeds, grass, ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes that can form a barrier between the picker and the harvest. Besides those minor inconveniences, some cricks may still be too deep to cross.
Even with those formidable obstacles, a bucket of wild berries is worth whatever you have to go through to get them. Blackberries are a mid-summer treat that’s free — if you don’t take into account the considerable effort it takes to bring home the two quarts it takes to fill a pie or a cobbler.
First, you have to get there ahead of the birds, raccoons and foxes. Those critters live where the wild berries grow. They know where the pickin’s are easy, and they have plenty of time on their hands. Beating the competition to the good spots isn’t easy.
When you find a ripe patch, you are slightly less than halfway to that pie. Blackberry bushes are loaded with those little fishhook-shaped thorns that can stick in your jeans and come back to take a stab at you when you’re on the way home.
Regardless of how hot it is, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the collar and leather shoes. You might be a little uncomfortable, but you’ll come home looking less like a pincushion.
I’ve heard some people say they pick berries wearing leather gloves. You might as well wear mittens. More berries are going to be dropped or crushed than will ever go into your bucket. Accept the fact that your hands are going to look like you just took a barn cat to the vet and pick through the scratches.
It is always true that the biggest, juiciest berries are the ones back there where you have to reach through all the brambles to get them. Pick your way back there. You’re still going to get thorned, but you won’t be knocking ripe berries off the bush on your way.
Berries ripe for the picking come off the bushes easily. If you have to pull part of the bush toward you to get the berry loose, it’s not ready yet. Come back in a day or two and hope the wild pickers didn’t beat you to them.
The temptation is great to snack on the berries that might otherwise go in the bucket. That can be self-defeating.
When Grandma and I carried a pair of 2-gallon buckets and waded La Harpe Crick to get to her favorite spot, she would always tell me, “You can eat all of them you want, but we’re not going home until the buckets are full.”