George Little: Berry picking—no pain, no pie
The State Journal-Register
Our remarkable March weather has made this an early growing season.
In many places, the corn is head high and the wheat has been harvested. Green beans, sweet corn, melons, peaches and even a homegrown BLT will arrive ahead of schedule.
That adds up to the best eating south of a Canadian shore lunch.
Out in the wild country, the gooseberries were green and gone a month ago. That may not be all bad. Nobody has ever been able to explain to me why you pick gooseberries when they are green. A green gooseberry pie is living proof that you can eat anything if you put enough ice cream on it.
Wild blackberries are getting ripe right now. Berry picking is one outdoor activity that is not equipment intensive. There is no berry outfitter section at your favorite store. Blackberries grow along the edges of timbers and crop fields, or in fencerows that get a lot of sun. All you need is the landowner’s permission, persistence and a bucket.
You are going to suffer for your blackberry pie. The four cups of berries it takes to make a pie will come with bug bites and maybe a surprise encounter with a snake. You wouldn’t be the first person to dump the bucket as you’re backing away from a beehive.
Blackberry briars aren’t as scary as zombies, but they will grab at you. All areas of your exposed skin will get clawed. Those little fishhook-shaped thorns were placed on blackberry bushes by Mother Nature to discourage the faint of heart. Wear long sleeves, long pants and leather shoes. Don’t forget to wet yourself down with bug spray. It’s tick season.
I’ve heard some people pick berries with leather gloves on. You might as well wear mittens. The berries are going to be just as crushed before you get them in the bucket. Pick barehanded through the scratches. Accept the fact that your hands will look like you just took a barn cat to the vet.
The biggest, juiciest berries are the ones back where you have to reach through all the brambles to get them. Pick your way to there. You’re still going to get stuck by thorns, but you won’t be knocking ripe berries off the bush on your way.
The more berries you eat right off the bush, the longer it’s going to take to fill the bucket. Exercise restraint.
All the berries aren’t going to be ready at once. Those that bring the bush with them when you try to pull them off aren’t ripe yet. You may have to make a return trip in a day or two, and then hope the critters haven’t gotten there first.
Four cups doesn’t sound like much until you’re picking them one small berry at a time. Just remember, if you quit too soon, you’re only cheating yourself. Pick an extra cup.
When a pie is the payoff, the more the berrier.