daily harvest

A couple of years ago, Rob got serious about planting a garden. He planted a long row of blackberries, another long row of table grapes and 10 fruit trees. Sounds like we are fruitarians. Last year we got our first harvest of blackberries. We ended up with about 3 1-gallon bags. Every day, we would go out and pick the ripe blackberries, wash and dry them, then put them in the freezer. At the end of the harvest, we made jam.

We will be overrun with blackberries this year. We have only begun harvesting and already have one-and-one-half bags of berries. We will have table grapes for the first time. And our peach and plum and fig trees are producing for the first time as well.

Rob and I divide the labor. He is the gardener. I am the preserver. I will make jam and juice, freeze berries and save them to make into cobbler, and experiment with fig jam which I hope to turn into homemade fig newtons.

Picking blackberries is dangerous business. The bushes are covered in thorns. They make you work for the privilege. My arms are covered in scratches and itch. There is a science to blackberry picking as well. A berry is ready to pick when it is black and has lost its sheen.  The berries also release easily from the vine when they are fully ripe. Be patient.

When I was a girl, my father took us to visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania. Our visits were in August. If you have been in Pennsylvania in August, you know that it is hot and muggy. The air feels heavy and there is a constant hum of cicadas. My grandmother’s car did not have air conditioning. Because it was necessary for my father to visit the family scattered across the state, we would ride for hours through the sultry, summer countryside in the backseat of that car, the hot air blowing through the windows, our bare arms and legs sticking to the vinyl seats. It was miserable.

But. If we were lucky, we would pass blackberries. There, at the side of the road. Free! What a novelty! I grew up in Southern California. Blackberries did not grow wild at the side of the road in Los Angeles. So we would stop and pick and eat, then climb, sticky and purple, back into the car.

When my daughters were young, their grandparents lived in Amagansett. If we visited in August, we could find ripe blackberries growing along the railroad tracks. One of Rob’s favorite pastimes in Amagansett was walking along the tracks. We would grab buckets and instruct the girls on train avoidance and go pick berries.

Picking berries that you grow yourself doesn’t engender the same sort of thrill…the excitement of scoring on nature’s generosity. But… the jam and cobbler taste just as good.