The Low-Down on Blackberries
For the past few weeks, I have been jealously eyeing the blackberry patch in my yard. I’m happy to share with robins and box turtles, but as lord of the manor, I demand annual tribute of two or three blackberry pies.
This year’s blackberry crop began with great promise. The vines in my yard flowered so profusely and persistently that the patch appeared to have a dusting of snow for most of April and May. I drooled just thinking of the bushels of berries those flowers would produce.
I normally expect to begin picking berries around Independence Day, but with this year’s early spring I hoped to see vanilla ice cream melting over warm purple pie filling by mid-June. The berries high on the vines began blushing red weeks ago. However, with less than an inch of rain in the past 30 days, the ripening process has slowed to a crawl. July 4th probably will come and go before most of the berries are ready to pick. If it doesn’t rain soon, they could all burn up.
Looking out across the patch yesterday evening, I thought I could see enough deep black berries to fill a measuring cup, so I donned the briar-proof pants I wear for rabbit hunting and waded into the thicket. I figured I would put a few early berries in the freezer and add them to later pickings.
Because of the drought, the berries are small. That’s okay. What they lack in size, they make up in intensity of flavor. But I did have to work to get one cup’s worth. Then I dropped one of the larger, fatter, berries. Not wanting to let even one get away, I burrowed down through the thorny stems to retrieve it. I was astonished to discover that the lost berry had company! Around it were dozens more, still attached to their stems. I had stumbled onto a berry bonanza beneath the visible patch.
Apparently, thrifty blackberry plants are investing most of their resources where moisture is greatest and sun exposure least. And besides being more numerous, the shade-grown berries were bigger. I ended up with a full quart instead of the cup I bargained for.
So, if you have been waiting for better pickings in your favorite blackberry patch, grab a bucket, knee pads and leather work gloves and look for berries on the down-low. Use a gloved hand to lift the fruit-bearing canes and a bare hand to pick.
If you get enough berries, you can bake a pie for your dad in honor of Father’s Day.