Jilly D.

Black and blue fruit: sweet as summer

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on July 29, 2014 at 1:11 am

sunflowerAs June is to strawberries, July is to raspberries and cherries, and August is to blackberries, blueberries, chokecherries and peaches, September is to elderberries, pears and apples. The fruit here grows wild and full of flavor.

In July the wild black raspberries ripen and attract the bears. Folks around here call them black caps. On more than one occasion I have waited for days for the berries to be perfect for the picking only to be beaten to the bounty by browsing bears. The grass is knocked down right in front of a thick bramble and every piece of ready to eat fruit has been removed. I have yet to encounter a bear on my berry picking expeditions here, but their prints and evidence of their foraging keeps me looking over my shoulder. I always bring the dogs along, just in case.

There is something so delicious about black raspberries that I will spend hours searching for them, wade through poison ivy and withstand scratches and prickers from their brambles for hours without complaint. Obviously I am not alone. I’ve learned where every single black raspberry plant is on this property. I won’t let Sam mow in some spots until the season has passed.

Black raspberries are an every-other-year phenomenon. Just like black cherries and black walnuts. In the good years, gather as much as you can. Jam, jelly, frozen whole for pies and muffins, baked into tortes and eaten fresh by the handful, wild black raspberries are sweet and tart.

While I walk the dogs during this season I forage for my own breakfast, lunch and snacks. I gather them on long hikes in the heat of the day because they grow in shade. Like tomatoes, they ripen from the bottom up; the warmth of the earth, not the sun, is required. When the berry is ripe for picking you recognize it by its black glow.

This is true of black cherries as well. When I’m up in the tree and the branches appear against the backdrop of the sky, I see the cherries and they look like black olives. Wild black cherries are small with big pits. It would take a gallon of cherries to make pie. Eaten fresh, they offer the most incredible burst of flavor imaginable. Sweet, musky, tart and fleshy, the fruit stains your hands, mouth and tongue.

I try to pick whatever black raspberries I can and eat to my heart’s content. The anti-oxidant levels are off the charts, I’m sure. But it’s the idea that the number of times I will be able to enjoy them is so severely restricted that I gobble them up as much as I can. In oatmeal, on top of ice cream, in a smoothie, like candy in a dish, pies, cobbler, jam, jelly and syrup. They are only available locally during a two week period every other year. In one’s lifespan that means I have to go without them more than I can have them. If I’m lucky, I will only have a dozen or more times to enjoy this rare and rapturous fresh fruit.

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