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July 20, 2008

Bunches and bunches of berries

Red currants

My family — mainly my oldest niece and I — have been enjoying the edible gifts borne by our favourite local park and other nearby forests. This summer’s crop has been especially fruitful and we’re expecting a ridiculous bumper crop of blackberries soon(!!!). I go crazy for salmonberries and introduced the avid 7-year-old berry-picker to the fine art of picking: get a grabby stick, dress the part, and get into the shrubbery! The two of us went on a little adventure, avoiding mud and trampling on dry brush, then hiking up the hill to safe ground when turning back to return across a log and over a creekbed seemed like a more difficult option.

If we’d had more time and more adults we could have probably matched the huge amount my friend and I picked last year. We missed out on picking at Green Timbers this year and I can only imagine how many berries must have been there. At any rate, over a few trips to the local parks here we yielded a significant amount for desserts and snacks, which the family enjoyed. Early in the season my cousin and his Korean girlfriend were here. She hadn’t tasted salmonberries before and the two of us went nuts!

Salmonberries in milk


Salmonberries

The park had the biggest, boldest yield of huckleberries I’ve EVER seen, and the little bear went crazy for those, too. They’re more exhaustive to pick, however, so we didn’t get a ton but wow were they ever gorgeous, and huge. I wished I’d brought my camera. The best berries were in a clearing, where unfortunately there also grew some type of grass with clingy seeds that stuck into little bear’s clothing and pricked her everywhere. Poor girl!

Also on the bumper-crop menu, and this year not plagued by ants, are the red currents just coming to full fruition now. Huge, deep red, juicy, tart berries. Tedious to pick, but I went out there with scissors tonight and snipped off a whole bunch. Yep, about 1% of them.

Red currants (top view)

In the front yard we also grow black currents, which have a different and perhaps sweeter taste, but they don’t get enough sun so the yield tends to be pretty small. We kind of forget about those guys.

The other day I found out that my paternal grandfather was quite the berrypicker extraordinaire. He would go out blackberry picking with a ladder and pick for longer than my grandmother could tolerate. She would then make a kind of syrup from the berries and give out extras to the family. We pondered what kind of money we’d make from selling berries if we had Opa’s determination! Apparently the blackberries sold commercially are a thorn-free variety, not wild, so it’s easier to pick, but they’re still expensive. I like the warm ones fresh off the brambles, and I’m not telling you our favourite spots!