Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Essence of Ripe Wild Berries

For me, the berry season begins in middle to late June with the arrival of petite wild strawberries, which continue to surprise me with their intense sweetness. If you aren’t careful, you might miss them hiding beneath a woven layer of delicate grass. I collect enough to use each day for delights such as buttermilk pancakes, muffins and topping for ice cream.

With a bit of greenish yellow at the base, the red raspberries tease and broadcast that they are on the verge of explosion. This of course is false advertising, but I continue to maintain hope that they will deliver as I wander with cup in hand estimating which ones will be ready in the morning. I am able to gather five or six (individual berries) and think that if I freeze them, I can keep adding to my collection of raspberries and by the end of the summer, will have enough to make a small batch of jam.

After weeks of going out to the red raspberry bushes, the truth emerged; the birds were getting the best of the crop. It’s okay; we share the space. Next year I will cover the bushes with netting and leave one bush for wildlife.

The high bush blueberries were plump and bountiful this season. There were so many at my fingertips that they seemed to jump into my basket and fill it rather quickly. Immediately following the harvest, I went straight to the kitchen and made jam. This is the true meaning of fresh and organic.

Every day I plan on paddling the canoe out to Otter Island in Duncan Lake and picking the low bush blueberries. They are much smaller and sweeter than the high bush. I like them more. Last summer while camping for the entire summer season on Duncan Lake, I created an excellent recipe for the miraculous wonders. Spread peanut butter generously on a wrap, cover with a layer of fresh picked blueberries and roll it up. It’s very easy to prepare, healthy and tasty. Now the trick for me is to avoid derailment and get out there to pick; hopefully it is not too late.

Currently I am picking black raspberries. They are more plentiful than the reds, and the birds seem to be a little slower on the uptake. I go out twice a day and pick and add them to my ongoing berry collection in the freezer, which is now showing a little promise for making some mixed berry jam.

If it doesn’t rain this afternoon, on my way to Duncan Lake, I am going to a secret place to check on the progress of the blackberries. The last time I picked them, they were huge and abundant. Whenever I go into the woods to pick berries, I sing loudly to let the bears know that I’m in the area, and to offer a bit of unsolicited entertainment.

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