Wednesday, August 22

Brambles have Thorns, as well as Fruit!

When I was young, one of the treats of our lives was Blackberry Jam, & Blackberry Pies. Our Grandmother would make the most delicious blackberry jam, which tasted so lovely in the winter months when it was cold & nary a berry could be found. It was like a little sliver of the Summer's heat & fullness, when the country was still, & bare, & cold. And berryless!

That rich, luscious, full flavour, somehow seemed to embody the full richness of bountiful summer days, with plenteous warmth, humidity, & languid, lazy days to be filled with pleasure. Such as can only be experienced, or perhaps enjoyed, as a child, without care or responsibilities.

We had several varieties of Berries we could plunder at will, with no ownership or 'private' rights to deter us. They grew wild & free, & were there for the taking, if we could only be bothered to gather them.

Blackberry was a weed in New Zealand. It was reviled by the diligent farmer, & cleared from his land.

Luckily for us, there were pockets of land where the owners of the land had neither the time nor the inclination to kill off the Brambles. Nor did they care who chose to avail themselves of the wondrous crops. And our mother would load us into the car, with buckets, & pans, & off she would drive, up winding, dusty, country gravel roads, in search of thick patches of the blackberries. Growing in thick tangles among the patches of Bracken ferns.

And we would climb the ricketty old fence, always at a post, as we had been taught, & proceed to pick the beautiful ripe, full, berries. And they always seemed so fat, & juicy, & just wonderful!

And there were often the slightly, larger & redder-hued, berries growing among all the blackberries, & these we took to be Boysenberries, but whether or not they were true Boysenberries, to this day, I am not sure. But they were equally delicious & we gathered as many as we could, before fatigue, or our mother's pleas for respite, would call a halt to the day's gatherings.

And of course there were extremely hot, humid days, when we would whine & complain, & yelp in terror, at the stabs of the thorns, bloody & painful, & wish to be home again. And our mother would grimly return to the car, vowing never to take us out again!

But of course, once our Grandmother had made the jam, pies, & Blackberry or Boysenberry jelly or jam, we would beg to be taken again, & promise, in the hollow way of children, to be 'good this time' & not 'whine or complain'.

And our Aunt & Uncle lived on the side of a valley, carved over many years by the river, which wound sluggishly down in the very bottom of the valley. On the banks below the boundary fence, of our Uncle & Aunt's property, there grew a wonderful light red berry we called a Wineberry. And the thorns, or prickles, on these vines were very mild, & hardly scratched at all. And very rarely drew blood.

So when the crop was ripe, we would eagerly climb the fence, & clinging to the steep sides of the bank, spend an afternoon, gather the lovely delicate red berries, to be made into Wineberry Jelly, or Apple & Wineberry Jam. And sometimes into pies.

Or, when the crop was large, they could be rinsed, & sprinkled lightly with sugar, & just enjoyed 'au naturale', with a little fresh cream added. The bliss of those memories! And the wonderful colours of the berries. And that lovely memory of Summer, when the jams or pies were tasted in the Winter months.

We forgot the whining, of heat, & bramble's sharp stabs, & just savoured those wonderful rich Summer tastes, fillled with memories.

Chris Isaak, Sweet Leilani.


Henri said...

Ah , Meggie , Just reading of those fat juicy wineberries has made my mouth water & the memories flood back & if I close my eyes I can taste them , smell them , feel the thrill of finding a good patch & hear the bees and the rustle of the grass , smell the flowers ( and the cows ! ) hear the birds and almost believe I am there again -- M. tells me they are still to be had - should you know where to find them & / or take the time .
Still some blackberries about too no doubt . Marvellous memories!

fifi said...

Oh, YUM!

That post smelled beautiful.
(And made my mouth water.)

riseoutofme said...

Lovely, evocative post, Meggie!

I have an abiding memory of making blackberry jam with my father-in-law (having lumbered around the bushes collecting them!) 3 days before no.1 son was born. We were like the witches from Macbeth, hovering over the steaming cauldrons chanting "Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble ...."
I can still smell the memory! Another couple of weeks and we'll be off out again, cans in hand to gather once more ... not with fil this time, unfortunately.

Alice said...

This reminded me so much of a holiday with my Grandma when I was 7. We spent most days collecting blackberries. I think my favourite treat is bread, cream and blackberry jam, although homemade raspberry jam is pretty delicious too. Oh, those fun filled days of youth - long before the cares of the world took over. Shame that they did!

Aunty Evil said...

Yum, I can smell them cooking!

joyce said...

Sounds delicious. We have lots of wild fruit here too, including chokecherries, Saskatoons, plums and cranberries. You've probably never heard of most of these but they are delicious in jams and Saskatoons are to die for right off the bush.

Melinda said...

My husband's grandmother could make the most delicious jams and jellies: strawberry, blackberry, apricot. Perfect on toast or warm bread. mmmmmmmm. You are making me hungry!

Ian Lidster said...

Blackberries -- one of the joys of summer, despite the thorns and the threatening yellowjackets, who also love blackberries. The fine patch of wild berries near our home was turned into a %$#@ housing development last year, alas. But, we also grow our own and I made a pie from them last weekend.
Did you know (as I noticed your 'Sweet Leilani' reference) that it is a criminal offence to bring a blackberry plant to the Hawaiian Islands? You could get as much as 10 years inside if you were convicted. But, considering the climate and the ubiquity of blackberries, I can understand why.

velcro said...

blackberries are in season over here. The FB wouldn't eat them and then he discovered that he could pick his own and loved them.

ancient one said...

Your describe your berry pickings so well. We would sometimes go with my Grandma Addie into the woods to pick blue berries. It was such a treat to be able to go with her. She knew where all the good bushes were in every direction.

Sheila said...

I have happy summer memories of blackberrying with my friends in the summer holidays. They were for many years my favourite berry. I can still get them now, but only from the supermarket. They are bigger, but tasteless commercially grown things, and so disapapointing. It seems if they ever grew wild here they have all been grubbed out.
Your childhood pursuits sound very much like mine..

meggie said...

Hi Everyone. It seems most of us have memories of blackberrying or at least picking some type of berry, when young. It is a great shame, but my grandchildren will never know the joys- & the perils!
I recently bought a jar of commercial blackberry jam. It had no taste at all, except sickly sugar, & i am sure it was Choko dyed dark red.
I laughed at your tale Rise, & could envision you & your swollen belly & your Fil leaning over the cauldron!
And, Joyce the names of those fruits are mostly foreign to me- Saskatoons??
Ian, I laughed when you said Yellowjackets- they are fish over here, & I was envisioning fish snapping at you picking berries! I must remember never to take blackberries to Hawaii- should I ever be lucky enough to get there!

I also note, that most memories of the berries involve a Grandma somewhere! I guess my grandkids wont have memories of me, with berries of any sort! What a pity.

Tanya said...

I have tried and tried to get a blackberry bush growing in my yard. A friend of mine has a wonderful one and she gives me cutting each year but they never take (a lot of leaves but no berries) and then seem to die in the winter. Blueberries too! I'd love to know the secret!

Stomper Girl said...

Yes I too was part of many a blackberrying expedition organised by my Mum. We whinged at the time (the heat, the flies, it's boring) but we were more than happy to scoff down the delicious jams and icecreams and berries.

crafty said...

We had a massive blackberry bush just over the fence at the bottom of our backyard, and others 'down the creek' where we used to play, but we were never allowed to pick or eat the berries, in case they had been sprayed. Because they are a noxious weed. We turned the huge one at the bottom of our yard into a big bonfire one year, and that was the end of it.

There was a peach tree on a vacant block near our house though, and we used to climb it in summer and stuff our faces with warm ripe peaches, yum. And then there was the ancient old mulberry tree at my Great Aunt's farm....

Katie said...

Ooooh...that sounds so yummy. Toast with butter and jam is my favorite food.

Bren said...

Zach tried to pick a berry and eat it while fishing the other day. I grabbed it from his dirty little paw and told him "DON'T EAT THAT". Does that count as a berry picking memory for him?

bluemountainsmary said...

Making jam is something I was discussing with the kids only yesterday. But it is one of those cooking things that makes me nervous - as in I have never done it before so am lacking confidence. Our blackberry bush will not die (though it should as they are a real pest here in the mountains) but does not bear enough fruit to make jam with.

Ali Honey said...

We still have some of the wine berries growing down by our creek.They are best eaten raw.

When we lived on the farm in South Taranaki, and had very small boys we did lots of blackberry picking. On our own farm we had a place we called the rough ground but our boys called "the Wild Woods," where we picked berries. A useful trick is to take a plank of wood and lie it onto the bush so you can walk up it into the top of the bush and not get scratched legs.

caramaena said...

I also have fond memories of blackberry picking with my grandmother and mother. I'm sure jam was made, since my grandmother used to make stuff like that but I only remember eating them as berries (I've never been a big jam fan).