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Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Clouds boil on the horizon. A storm wind whips through the yard stirring the humid air that's perfumed with gardenia, jasmine, and rose. Just on the edge of notice is the rich scent of berries, blackberries, wild ones growing in the hedgerows along the property line.

I put the children down for naps, they lay dreaming gardenia-scented dreams under slowly turning fans. I opened the windows in case they woke up early. Reaching my goal before they woke up was important.

My neighbors probably thought I'd lost my mind, if they looked outside at all. A hot Florida day with the humidty nearing one hundred percent and I was dressed in heavy jean with polka dot socks rolled over my pants up to my knees. I was going blackberry picking.

Blackberrying isn't a chore for the young. These brambles are ancient, wild things. The mustangs of the berry family. These aren't strawberries that lay like polished rubies on the ground waiting for an eager child to find them. These aren't like blueberries that drop plump and beautiful into your bucket when you shake a branch. No, these are wild blackberries.

The thick briar is a wall of thorns between our property and the neighbors. I start on our side of the hedge, risking the thorns for gleaming ebony berries the size of my thumbnail. Ancient canes, dust dry and the color of bone, grab at my ankles like a kraken reaching from the depths. Thorns clutch the denim of my jeans, but I press on.

Ever so carefully I move branches to pluck the first fruits of the season. White flowers still dot the hedgerows. Most the berries I see are pale things, not quite even fruit. The ones in the sunniest spots are blushing pink, it will be weeks before I can pick them for my bucket. The first blackberries are buried deep in the bramble where their flowers were protected from late frosts and harsh winter winds. They've grown there, and now they lure me into danger.

A catbrier is growing over the blackberries, I try to move it and the lowest vine digs into my shin. The thorns on this one are long and sharp. I escape with a little blood lost and move down the row. Before the storm breaks I have half my bucket filled with the first blackberries of summer.

This isn't enough for jam, maybe a pint at the most, but I wash the berries, let them air dry on a towel, and then freeze them. Some cold winter day they will make a blackberry buckle... or they would have if the napping children didn't find them freezing and devour the whole harvest... You win some, you lose some. Maybe I'll get to save the next batch.

1 comment:

  1. When I was young, we lived in an area where we had wild blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries along the edges of the fields next to our house. We would also visit my uncle's place where he had a couple of fields of strawberries and blueberries.

    So I grew up picking berries and apples. It made them taste even better.