Going Berry Picking

| 7/7/2016 10:04:00 AM

Country MoonOne of the sweetest bounties of summer is berries. Even sweeter is the deal if you can pick your own. There is nothing better than fresh pie or cobbler made with fresh-picked fruit, that is provided that the fruit makes it out of the patch to go into dessert.

I remember going  raspberry picking as a kid and, when we found a good patch, we thought we had hit gold. Being down on the farm in Indiana has brought back these special memories. Ron has numerous black raspberry bushes that grow wild along his woods. This year I was privileged to pick in his private “stash.” This is the same woods that were barren of mushrooms but has blessed us with a bounty of berries.

Picking these sweet treats certainly does have its rewards, but not without a price. First of all, they grow along the outer edges of woods and fence rows. The first berries you come to are juicy and sweet, but not half as much as those that grow behind and down under. Anyone who has ever gone berrying knows how thorny the bushes are too. To get the fruit of the vine you have to pay the price in cuts and scrapes, not to mention that they ripen in late June or early July when it is hot and humid.

I made an executive decision to go for cool instead of protection this year and wore capris instead of jeans to pick in. Between my scrapes from the thorns and my sunburn from mowing I looked like I had fought a grizzly and lost. But the sacrifice was well worth it.

Black raspberries usually grow in clusters of seven with the center one ripening first. As with any crop, the size and how juicy they are depends on the weather. Too little rain makes them smaller and seedier. Too much sun and heat and they tend to be dry and shriveled up. Consequently, the larger, juicier ones are usually the berries growing on the bottom and protected vines. The more willing you are to penetrate the woods, the greater the rewards are.

There is an art to the method of picking also. You want to handle the tender berries so as not to squash the juice out. The best way is cupping your hand under the cluster and gently twisting the berries until they fall off. Sound simple? Just like milking a cow, there is a knack to it.

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