Sunday, June 17, 2018

Reminiscing: Picking Blackberries

Spring is a difficult time to write. Finally after a long winter, we can get outside and start to clean up what the snow has left behind. Because of that, I’ve been very remiss in getting stuff written for the blog. There’s just so much going on outside, and it’s been so nice, who wants to sit at a computer and write? However, after a weekend of spreading mulch, a story from when I was a kid popped into mind. That is the subject of this week’s Reminiscing.

Along the east side of the house, we have planted some raspberry bushes. There are a lot more than there were when we first planted them. They’ve grown really well. As I was putting mulch around them, I noticed how many raspberries look like they will be growing for us this year. There are a lot. Once we have some casual eating, hopefully we will have enough to make some jam. The same cannot be said of our strawberries. They look awful this year. Maybe it’s time for some new plants.

When I was a kid, my parents grew some raspberry bushes behind the garage. Despite the fact they barely got any sun on that north facing wall, we had some nice plants back there that gave us a lot of fruit. It was not unusual to grab a handful as a snack while we were playing nearby. I’m not sure why we got rid of them, or when we did, but I definitely wanted some plants when I bought my own house.

Even better than raspberries are blackberries. I wish I could grow them, too. However, each time I try to get some plants going, they die out. I have not had any success. At this point, the raspberries are pretty much taking over. If I could get them to grow on the north side of my garage, I’d plant some there between the hosta plants already there. I think they would grow there, especially if the raspberries used to do well.

When I was a kid, blackberry picking was a summer tradition. We’d go to Lyndonville, meet up with my grandmother, and find some bushes full of the sweet, dark berry. We would fill basket after basket, to take home. Once we got them home, there would be some berries for casual eating, a pie or two, and jam. There’s nothing quite as awesome as homemade jam on fresh toast. Especially if it’s blackberry.

There were several places we used to get blackberries. There was a place along old railroad tracks by the cemetery. There were lots and lots of bushes there, although probably not the best place to pick. Recently, I’ve seen no bushes there. I don’t know if they died out or if someone ripped them out, but it’s much cleaner over there.

Another place we went to was way out by Lake Ontario. On some back road with no houses, there were bushes and bushes of them. You could literally stand in one spot and get your quota of pickings. Again, those bushes seem to be gone. I haven’t seen any there in years. I’m not sure what happened to all the blackberry bushes, but they are harder and harder to find.

Some time in the mid 1980s, my grandmother decided that she was going to go picking before we got there. She was probably 65 or 66 at the time. She got out to our favorite spot by the lake with baskets in hand. She never made it to the bushes. After years of going to the same spot, she took a wrong step in the ditch and broke her leg. I’m not sure how she got out of there, but my mom got a call about the incident. The next time I saw her, she had a cast that went nearly to her thigh. Not a great way to spend the rest of the hot summer, I’m sure. Of course, she let us draw on the cast. I drew a bunch of blackberries. After that, she was always a bit wary when we took her blackberry picking.

A couple years ago, we had to buy some blackberries in order to make some jam. We’re all out of that jam now, so we need to make more. I have no problem paying for blackberries, as long as they are reasonably priced. I would prefer finding some rogue bushes that someone wouldn’t mind us picking. It’s kind of a tradition, and there’s just something sweeter about the jam when you work for it yourself.

If anyone know where I can find blackberries, please let me know. We (mostly me) love them. I wish they would grow at the house, but so far we’ve had no luck with that. My winter toast would really love some blackberry jam. A pie would be pretty fantastic, too.

Craig Bacon loves eating berries fresh from the backyard. He wishes the strawberries would have done better this year, but the raspberries look great so far.