Friday, January 11, 2013

52 Steps to Yesteryear - Week 2, Berry Picking

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn 
and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. Wendell Berry. 

Fresh Raspberries - Crabapple House

I guess with Berry for a name, Wendell Berry knew a thing or two about fruit. Here at Crabapple House, we too are learning the deliciousness of the raspberry patch. We've only had ours for three years, but in that time we've held it back by thinning out the plants and giving away as many as we can throw at people. 

In the off season, the patch is hardly noticeable. Stumpy twigs almost make a mockery of their beds. But once spring arrives, the bushes emerge in a wild hurry with foolishness on their mind. They think they can spread themselves wherever they wish. And they try, oh they really try. I'm forever digging up baby plants from the lettuce, the squash, the silver beet. Tenacious and assuming, they think they're in charge, and if I were to let them, they'd take it. 

Kitchen Garden - Crabapple House
So I prune, and yank and rid those escapees from where they shouldn't be, knowing the longer I leave it, the more work for me. But my reward is healthy plants right where I want them. Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and beans. Each variety growing without the tangle of raspberries at their feet.

But I sow and reap for pleasure. Things are different in times of famine. 

During the Victorian era, malnourished Irish children tempted by blackberry bushes often met with overcharged stomachs. Full to overflowing with wild berries from hedgerows, some cases of gorging on unripe fruit even led to deaths.

Some for today - Some for tomorrow

Still, bramble fruit could not be ignored. Victorian cook books abound with recipes for berry brandies, cordials, jams and jellies. Some thought blackberry syrup the remedy for cholera and 'summer complaints', and children often took their brimming baskets to the local village where in 1894 they could pocket as much as ten pence a stone for their wares. 

At Crabapple House our crop delights us for a short time. This year, we even had enough to freeze some for later in the year. But the fun of foraging through a hedge remains the same as in days gone by, when berry hunts fuelled competition as well as happy bellies. 

Raspberry Hunt 

Better still, those dawn moments Wendell Berry knew so well, when the competition is low and the fruit count high. Enough to fill, and spill, over the best raspberry cup. 


Do you grow berries? Drive into the country to pick your own?
What's your best berry picking story? 


Many thanks to those who shared a lemonade story last Friday, for out first week of 52 Weeks to Yesteryear. For her sweet story, Di Riley will be receiving a packet of paper star straws to use when she's next serving a jug of something cool. Congratulations, Di. 

Next week's prompt... Jam Making.