Saturday, July 25, 2009

Black Gold - Blackberries

I love blackberries! In the Pacific Northwest they are abundant, free, full of vitamins, free, easy to pick and did I say free? When I go to the Farmer's Market and see people buying a flat or worse a pint of blackberries for up to $25 a flat and $6 a pint box I cringe. I want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and ask them what their problem is. When blackberries are on every corner screaming to be picked why would someone be so lazy that they could not stop the car, get out and pick free, juicy blackberries in just a couple of minutes? I actually have asked people why they buy them and they usually answer they don't like to mess with the thorns and get scraped or have their fingers turn purple. Whatever! Being the Frugal Fraulein, I dream about blackberry season!

As I have already told you, this season I have picked berries and canned berry quick bread. I am now watching the vines in my back yard and in some of my favorite places along the road for them to ripen.

In picking season I always have large stainless steel bowls, a small pair of sharp garden clippers, hand wipes, zip loc bags, a towel and a hat in my car. I have also begun to carry an old apron so if I happen upon a really good patch I can cover my clothing.

The stainless steel bowls are industrial sized and were found at a yard sale. That memorable day, there were two of the bowls and a colander that I picked up for $1 a piece. It was one of those days that you have to keep your legs from running back to the car before the people realize the treasures they just parted with. Those things are worth their weight in gold to me. I use them when I pick produce in my garden, when I chop for canning and especially when I soak produce in absorbic acid to keep fruit from discoloring. When I pick berries they sit on the ground to leave my hands free for picking.

The garden clips are an old pair of Felco pruners that Mom gave me one year for Christmas. When I am not using them in the garden I keep them in the car. I can't tell you how many times I have used them to pick flowers along the roadside. In berry season, I use them to clip my way into the middle of the berry wall and to trim away those stragglers that are wanting to grab your arms and legs. Since berry vines grow produce fruit off new vines, it is actually doing the plants a favor to be trimmed. There is one place I have frequented for about 10 years near a sand lot and I witness year after year the area I pruned the previous season. That is my favorite place to pick and I have never seen anyone else there! No, I won't tell you where it is!

I keep a container of disinfectant hand wipes in the car to clean up after picking. My hands will be purple and full of the dried stuff that falls off the ripe berries. I get them at the dollar store and if the container seems to be getting dry I just add a wee bit of water to rehydrate the wipes. I keep a towel in the car for the final wipe of my hands if the towelettes are too wet. Nothing worse than sticky hands on the steering wheel.

Ziploc bags are always handy. After filling the bowls I transfer the berries into the plastic bags. If you don't do that you could have an awful mess if the bowl should happen to spill in the car. In the bags the berries are safe and if I don't get to process them that day they are safe in the refrigerator when I get home.

I happen to love aprons and think it is a fashion that needs to be resurrected. I use them all the time to protect my clothing. In fact when I teach canning classes I always recommend that the students bring an apron and I loan them to those that don't have one. Yes, I have a habit of wiping my hands on the front of me when I cook and can. Aprons have saved me many dollars over the years. If anyone ever wants to know what to buy me for a gift it would be an apron.
I have garden aprons with lots of pockets, a painting apron, a shop apron, a good apron I try to keep for company and many others to wear daily. Many holidays I wear one all day long and have pictures to prove it. Oh my blog picture is a Thanksgiving picture of me picking brussel sprouts fresh from the garden in November!

That old baseball hat keeps the sun out of my eyes, my hair away from my face and away from getting caught by the berry vines. There is always a hat in my car.

I have also tried the cup with handle method. Holding a coffee cup or paper cup with handle you reach into the vines to pick berries with your thumb and first finger. Supposedly the cup will push back the prickly vines and keep you from being scratched. I have had success with the method but think the few scratches I get are worth the trouble and I seems to me I can pick more berries with my hand unencumbered. To each his own... Try this method you might like it.

Ok, enough about supplies. You get the point. Put some items in the trunk of your car and next time you see some luscious berries, turn on your directional signals, slow down and park the car safely on the side of the road. Get out and pick some berries!

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