As a born and bred prairie girl, blackberry season means the blink-and-you-miss-it stretch when the grocery store charges you only $2.99 for the tiniest container known to mankind, instead of the usual $6.99, or something equally ridiculous. These grocery store berries, however, are merely a representation of what real blackberries taste like. You know, the kind that haven’t been picked, packed and shipped hundreds of kilometers before landing in the grocery store produce section.
Blackberry season on the west coast is firing on all cylinders right now. This is a time when you find both young and old, rich and poor, eagerly braving vicious thorns to pluck blackberry after blackberry into whatever vessel they have. These vessels may include the following: mouth, pockets, t-shirt bottoms folded up into makeshift baskets, bags, buckets, baseball caps, coffee mugs, etc. Aaron and I have used an empty water bottle to bring home our berries, then later returned with buckets so we could do the patch justice.
It may be just me, but I am amazed by the fact that these delicious pieces of heaven grow basically free for the taking (assuming they are on your property, or public property, of course). All you need is a thick pair of pants, bucket and an hour, and you will have enough berries to enjoy now and into the winter (when frozen). Blackberry smoothies in January? DoneI would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the giant, juicy blackberries that everyone loves so much are actually an extremely invasive, non-native species. Himalayan blackberries were introduced to the US in 1885, and since then have wreaked havoc along the west coast. They are an aggressive invader that can take over whole fields and parking lots if left unmanaged. They can grow up to 30 feet a year and are so thick and thorny that their removal is extremely difficult. The only native blackberry to the Vancouver Island area is the trailing blackberry, which produces a much smaller but equally flavourful berry.
The dilemma proposed by the thorns of the Himalayan blackberry (endure and prosper vs. retreat and remain intact), is similar to the predicament of the plant’s presence itself (eradicate in the name of nature vs. proliferate in the name of deliciousness). As a west coast newbie I am perfectly happy putting up with a few thorns for a bucket full of black gold, but as a forester I can appreciate the need to control and eradicate invasive species.
Ode to Blackberries
An Amateur Haiku by Lana Tutt
punctured and wounded
you leave me after picking
your road-side black gold