What blackberries can teach you
What blackberries can teach you
Ripe blackberries are the essence of summer. Where we live there are thousands of tangled vines just begging you to wade in and start picking. But before you grab your bucket and go, beware the siren call of the blackberry bramble. The aroma of the fruit is seductive and if youíre not careful you may find yourself trapped in a painful embrace. Over the years Iíve come up with the following rules for blackberries, and also for life:
Rule #1 Ė Have the right equipment. This isnít an endeavor you can start on a whim. Do not head out in flip flops and a T-shirt. My uniform includes an old pair of Levis, stockmanís boots, and a tight-weave menís dress shirt, buttoned up. The goal is to avoid getting scratched, or worse, snagged so tightly that you have to rip your clothes to escape.
The same thing applies when you go out these days: take a mask, have hand sanitizer in the car and use it frequently. Be prepared.
Rule #2 Ė Start early. Get out there before the morning fog burns off, when itís just you and the birds hopping around the thicket. Thatís when the berries are cool and plump. Besides, you donít want to be out in the hot sun wearing all that denim.
Getting an early start is almost always a good idea. Give yourself some extra time in case something goes wrong Ė as it often does. And when it doesnít, you can give yourself some me-time.
Rule #3 Ė Pick the low-hanging fruit. In life you are often advised not to take the easy way out, but where blackberries are concerned, itís just the opposite. If you can fill your container with beautiful, luscious fruit without having to risk life and limb, why wouldnít you?
So now that youíve done the easy work, itís time to tackle the next, harder step. But having paid attention to the basics, the ABCs, youíll have a good, solid foundation, just like youíll have a half-full bucket.
Rule #4 Ė Donít force it. A perfectly ripe berry is a deep purple-black all the way around and yields easily. It wants to be picked and put in your pie or jam or sorbet. Thatís its purpose in life. If you feel resistance, that means it has some red spots still on it, hidden out of sight, and if you force it, youíll end up with something seriously sour. Leave it and move on.
Rule #5 - Pay attention. Wait until conditions are ripe, and then make your move.
Rule #6 Ė Donít be greedy. Take what you need and leave the rest for the wildlife. This is an especially good rule to follow when you see berries hanging just out of reach, or sometimes way out of reach. You could wade in, or lean in just a little further Ö donít do it! Thatís a good way to end up face first in thorns, plus you might spill your bucket Ė the ultimate berry-picking tragedy.
Itís like when you go to the grocery store these days and see toilet paper or paper towels on the shelf. Thereís a temptation to take more than you need. But think about all the other people who also need toilet paper. If we all take just what we need, there will be enough for everyone.
Rule #7 Ė Make something delicious. You expended a lot of energy picking those beautiful berries. Donít let them go to waste.
These days we all need a treat, a little TLC. And in my book, thereís nothing better than a slice of blackberry pieÖ with vanilla ice cream on top.