Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blackberry picking

i am a blackberry picker of some 35 years experience. when i was very young, and the summers seemed hotter and longer, we'd hunt blackberries in packs, hoping to sell some to housewives who had little time to be wandering through fields of thorns.

there was always something special about finding good blackberries. for me that meant large, well-formed, not too bulbous, and to come upon such fruit, even just a few, made the whole thing worthwhile. the sister plant of the blackberry would appear to be the nettle and this, in addition to bramble thorns, is the main obstacle to the blackberry picker. as i have aged i have become more tooled-up in my search. now you will see me, possibly on the roof of my car trying to pick from the top, accessorised with a golf club and a pair of kitchen scissors, in the forlorn hope that i can avoid injury. from my last two forays i have spinters in my fingers and the remainder of tens of nettle stings up my arms. the wonder of nettles is that they can grow so bloody tall. you can be ten foot up, hanging from the car in search of that elusive blackberry, glimpsed briefly from below, and just as you first touch its lustrous skin, the searing pain from the unseen nettle top invades your senses. as you drop that berry, so juicy and now unknowable, a kind of masochism drives you on; must get more, find more.

i think it is that masochism that differentiates the blackberry hunter, and hunters of other wild foods, from others, that, and the ability to conduct long and involved conversations with themselves and their fruit. certainly most of my conversations at the time are with the thorns that i am plocking from my skin with my teeth, or congratualtions to the nettle that caught me unawares or sprang back from my golf club to shake my hand.

the spoils are worth it though. in two hours, maybe a little less, i picked a couple of kilos of free fruit; black juicy and delicious.

i will probably develop a dessert around them for the next menu, i'm thinking canoli and i'm also thinking cashew nut ricotta sweetened with the elberberry jelly i made.

get out there and pick, but remember to leave some for the birds.



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