Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pickers Can Be Choosers

Last week when I was taking Tank for a walk, I came to the realization that the area that I am living in is completely surrounded by blackberry bushes. How I have never noticed this before is beyond me, especially when I had a mild blackberry picking addiction last year. The next day I went down with Tank again and brought a small sandwich bag and filled it up with berries. The berries were still quite tart but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Two days later I went down with an ice cream pail and filled it to the top. I ate some of them but froze the majority of them since some were slightly under-ripe and I figured I could sweeten them up by using them for baking someday down the road.

Nutrition Tip! Blackberries are loaded with beneficial antioxidants which can help fight against cancer, inflammation and the evil aging process. They are low in calories and are packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also great for controlling blood sugar levels and even treat symptoms of gout.

Now even though I have plenty of berries stocked away in the freezer, it's as though there is a primal instinct burning away deep down inside of me, screaming to go get more berries. Knowing that there are millions of berries within a 5 minute walk from the house is eating away at my soul. Some of them will be eaten by wildlife (which is good) but the majority will be wasted from no one picking them, and that is haunting me.  So today I went down and picked another bucket.

And I am so glad that I did!

After giving them an extra few days to ripen, they are above and beyond any kind of fruit that I have ever picked in my entire life. And no, I am not exaggerating. They are so incredibly sweet and plump and juicy; better than any blackberry that I have ever bought in a store or picked off of a plant. I nearly died of happiness as I popped berry after berry into my mouth as I picked.

So after my multiple trips down the road and into the blackberry patches (technically they are called "brambles"), I have learned several important life skills and tips for anyone who ever plans to become a blackberry picker.

Pickers can be choosers: I found that the best blackberries fall easily from the bush. When picking a blackberry, if you have to tug on it to get it to detach from the bush, then it's not ripe and you should just leave it be. The most delicious and sweet berries will basically fall into your hand when you touch them.

Wear pants and long sleeved shirts: The first time I went picking, I didn't wander into the brambles and basically stayed on the outskirts. The second time, I went balls to the walls and just went for it. When my bucket was full, I was cut, diced and sliced all over my legs and arms. Most of it I didn't even feel and was shocked to see the damage that was done to my poor body.

You're going to bleed. Picking is not for the faint of heart. Whether it be your hands, legs, arms or face (the thorns will catch you when you least expect it), you're going to bleed.

Thorns can rip clothes. The thorns and branches have a way of hooking onto your clothes and refusing the let go. Today one of the branches had me so strongly that I started laughing because I was pushing quite hard to detach the branch from my shirt. The thorns of a blackberry bush can even tear denim. No joke. Just ask my jeans.

Pick in the early morning or heat of the afternoon. The second time I picked it was later on in the evening because the day was so hot and I didn't want to stand in the heat. However, I quickly learned that this was a terrible idea because I was able to single handedly repopulate the entire Victoria mosquito population for the entire summer in less than 30 minutes. My back, shoulders and arms were so chewed up that I looked like a pin cushion. An itchy...swollen....ugly pin cushion that wants to be scaled by hot water in the shower. Today I picked in the middle of the afternoon and even though it was warm, there was not a mosquito in sight.

Don't get emotionally attached. You're going to drop fruit while you're picking. Even though it is easy to say, don't get sad when some berries fall from your hand and hit the ground. They're not worth going after. Leave them be. There are more to pick.

You're going to get dirty so be prepared to shower afterwards. When you pick blackberries and disrupt the bush by getting in there and tugging on the branches, there is a horrible...substance...I don't even know the word. Tiny little seeds or dried up skin or something that comes off of the plant and onto your skin. It's itchy and irritating and you'll want to jump into a cold lake or the shower when you're done picking. It gave me the major heebie-jeebies, like my skin was crawling.

Bring lots of bags, buckets or anything to put the fruit in. Even though you think that your bucket is big enough, leaving a patch of blackberries is diffucult to do when the bucket is full. You're going to see tons more just taunting you, pleading to be taken home along with your already heavy load of fruit. Not having enough buckets is hard on your emotional well-being because you're going to want more. More! More!

Have adequate storage. With great fruit comes great need to storage. I already feel guilty enough filling half of the freezer with frozen bags of blackberries, but it's hard to stop when the picking is so good. I already gave some berries to the neighbour, but I still have tons of berries to deal with. You know you have an addiction when you contemplate going out and buying a mini freezer just to accommodate the blackberries.

So if you need some blackberries, give me a call! I can hook you up!

Plus if I give you some then that means that I can go pick some more!

I need help.

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