Blackberry season is upon us and for those of us who have lived here most of our lives, we can take that berry for granted.
It was August when our family moved to Nanaimo from Alberta and our first residence was at the end of Haliburton Street, very close to where the Calico Cat Tea House stands now. All along the side of the road were, and still are, blackberry bushes aplenty.
To us Prairie folk, this was quite a discovery. Here were all these beautiful berries, just waiting there for the picking. When my Grandma came from Saskatchewan, her summer visits weren't complete without taking us blackberry picking. With old ice cream buckets in hand, we would set out in search of a good patch.
We didn't have to go too far to find our cache, which is not the case now. With new development, old blackberry patches disappear.
I found that people could be rather secretive when it comes to where they picked their berries. It became very territorial. When they found a good spot, they tended to keep it to themselves.
There is an art to the picking of the blackberry and proper attire is most important. Long sleeves and long pants are a must if planning a good picking session, and preferably a picking partner as well.
Being attacked by a blackberry branch can be painful and falling into a blackberry bush is an experience you would never forget. Those thorns are vicious! I have been witness to said occurrence and, thank God, there were enough of us to pluck our fellow picker out of the clutches of those thorns.
You are not a champion picker unless you have the scars to prove it! Down at the end of our street is a lovely patch where you can wander down and pick as many or as little as you may need that day.
One day, being lost in my quest to find just the right berry, a garter snake slithered over my foot. Not good.
Lesson learned: Always always wear runners or boots - the blackberry patch is NOT 'flip flop' country. But the pain and agony is well worth the effort, especially when it comes to making and eating the pies! My friend Dot Forrester makes the best blackberry pie ever. She says tapioca is the key to a great pie.
The Powell River Blackberry Festival is on my bucket list. It is a week long celebration of everything blackberry. The culinary opportunities are endless, to say nothing of the wines.
There is an old English folklore that says blackberries should be picked before Old Michaelmas day, which happen to be Oct 10.
It goes that the devil was kicked out of heaven and landed in a blackberry patch. He was so angry he spit on them.
Well spitting is one story, and there is another version, but.. . So, get those pails out and get picking. There is lots of time yet.
Oh, and don't forget to watch out for snakes! " Kim Bayliss is a longtime Nanaimo resident
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