Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Blackberry Picking

Bill reminded me last week we needed to get out for another blackberry picking session. We went a few weeks ago, but he got upset with how cautiously I picked them over: he thought I threw away too many 'good' ones. It's hard to tell with wild food sometimes, but I did err on the side of only the wholly formed berries, which did lose us about 1/3 of the crop. So the next time I kept more, thinking he would eat most of them anyhow...and he'll get what he gets, hmmm?

We have a 'secret' berry picking place not far from our house. I wouldn't go here by myself, as there is evidence of other use either by vagrants or bored kids, but the berries are generally plentiful, not to mention free. I make a conscious choice to eat these berries, knowing that the residue left by the previous land use isn't likely all that healthy. Bill won't consider picking or eating blackberries that grow in the nearby cemetery...but I know others who do and laugh about it. I applaud them, but lean towards Bill's view. Some things don't really bear thinking about, do they?

One of the gardening/cooking shows here is something called River Cottage and the chef is big on getting people permission to grow food on unused land (Landshare). Interesting idea, but I'll be surprised if it gets off the ground. It's a really good show, though, one of the other few I'll watch.

Unfortunately, our berry crop was very sparse and I resorted at one point to picking rosehips, though I've not ended up doing anything with them.

Remember the Robert Redford movie, Jeremiah Johnson? I got the book after seeing the movie and one of the food mountain men ate a lot of was rosehips. The guy I dated at the time later married and named his son Jeremiah...I sometimes wondered if filming that movie was when Redford got the idea of living at Sundance, as it was filmed in Utah.

Anyhow, during WWII, apparently some government department here in Britain encouraged picking of wild rosehips as they were rich in vitamin C. I need to do more research to figure out how to cook them.

At one point, my most pressing problem was how to get rid of this wasp...

I'm always drooling over all the 'free wood' here as well, though we don't have any way of using it...just with the rising price of fuel, this looks like money to me. As with most things, though, it's not quite that simple. We looked at getting a wood burning stove -- a proper smokeless fuel one. We have four fireplaces with chimneys in the house, but small ones built to burn coal. In the two downstairs fireplaces, there are gas stoves under the original tiles and mantles. To put a wood stove in any of them would mean losing the original tiles and I'm not willing to to that. Putting a stove in the most likely place in the kitchen would require creating another flue, etc., and this was going to cost about £4,000. Since we're never sure how long we'll be in this house, it was a lot to spend and not recoup, so we passed on the idea. Still, the wood looks good...

Like I said, we didn't get a lot of berries, but it's always a good experience. Looking for berries makes you focus 'in the now' and you're out in nature, which is relaxing. Stretching for the always just-out-of-reach, really nice berry is a good work out as well. So put it on your calendar to get out there next year!


Anonymous said...

Rick's dad had blackberrys on the farm and at the house in the city. Blackberry cobblers are great. Wish we could get just some of the free wood you are talking about for our fireplace insert. We burn about 3 ricks (of wood) each winter.


Rick Stone said...

My dad always planted blackberry vines. He always said the more wild the vine the more thorns you have to work around. He also said the fewer the thorns (more domestic vines) the less taste the berries would have. So, that would mean your wild vines should have good tasting berries. I wouldn't know since I didn't inherit his interest in gardening.