Recently, my husband and I with two grandchildren stood proudly gazing at our 300 foot hedge of wild Himalayan Blackberries. We adoringly spoke of how much bigger, juicier and prolific the berries were this year. My husband stated, “These berries are a gift from God to the Pacific Northwest.” We all agreed.
After all, they grow everywhere: in woods, along roads, in pastures, along beaches, along river banks, in vacant lots and in your yard. Best of all, they are free for the picking. Yes, resident, visitor, a lost hiker, rich, poor, bird or mammal can have all they want for free. And who wouldn’t want them? Only 75 calories to a cup. They contain every vitamin and mineral except D and Floride. They are high in fiber, antioxidants and mildly anti-inflammatory. They contain protein. No cholesterol. Cooking does not destroy the nutrients. Best of all? They are delicious.
Eat them off the bush, make pies as four generations of our family have done, make jam or syrup for ice cream or pancakes. Freeze them and make smoothies. Last week our daughter baked a cobbler with almond topping . The family gathered for the sole purpose of sharing this blackberry treat, bringing back fond memories of decades of blackberry tradition.
We all enjoyed ourselves while picking. It was wonderful to be out in nature with our family and working together.
This morning as I picked berries, I remembered years ago, a member of our church who had acres of blackberries growing on his property. He told the members to feel free to pick any time. Our church designates Monday as Family Home Evening so many families used that night to pick blackberries. With life always busy, it was a great time to visit with other families as we picked berries in preparation for winter food storage.
We had a friend from out of state who always took his vacation to Washington during blackberry season to take back gallons of blackberries. My sister, who lives out of state and teaches school, always laments that she can’t be here during blackberry season. I may pack some berries in ice and UPS her some this year. Family members who have left Washington appreciate a gift of blackberry jam for Christmas.
As I continued picking, I recalled another blackberry experience in 1970.I had been living out of state and was visiting my parents during blackberry season. They had moved to a home on the beach where there were no berries. Mom suggested I go a block up the street and pick. It was hard to tell where vacant lots and private property boundaries were. I didn’t want to steal someone’s precious berries! I found a place that looked acceptable. Just as I picked the first berry, a loud blaring siren went off above my head! In total shock, I dropped the pan. Thoughts raced through my head. How did they know I was picking there and wasn’t this a little extreme to stop me from picking? The blaring continued but as I gained composure, I realized it was Wednesday 12:00 when all air raid sirens in Seattle went off for testing in case the Russians invaded! So on with the picking…
After picking berries this morning, I decided to write this blog. I’m checking with BING for history. They are from Eurasia brought to the U.S. in the late 1800’s for commercial use. They spread like wild fire through the west coast. What wonderful things will the websites say about them? Wait! What is this? Our beloved blackberries have been declared by the government as an invasive noxious weed? No. That can’t be. Yes, various websites refer to them as” criminal”. They are on the top 10 most unwanted poster. In Seattle, they are eliminated in parks, forests and woods. True, the beloved blackberry does prohibit other native plants and animals from flourishing. They also prohibit society from enjoying nature by not allowing access to rivers or lakes. Websites give dozens of ideas on how to destroy them.
Do we have to have blackberries? No. We can live without them but they are such a welcomed treat in any form throughout the year.
Are they a gift or curse from God? I will let you be the judge of that but if you have ever tasted them, you know the correct answer. Now I have to go and pick more blackberries.