Saturday 12 June 2010
We've been in The Larches for almost a year. Walking the hedges, I'm excited to see the blackberries forming. If I manage to pick even a percentage of them, I'll need a new freezer!
Our life has completely changed since last I picked blackberries...[imagine harp music up and down the scales and your vision blurred into wiggly lines....yes, it's a flashback!]
....2009..Blackberry picking time in Oxfordshire:
Our cottage garden was productive, with a veg plot, herbaceous borders and a tiny pond. We only had room for a few soft fruits; raspberries and blueberries and our big old walnut tree precluded us from fruit trees.
Blackberry season was a time for foraging; my secret location was a park and ride car park just outside Oxford City. Hundreds of people parked and passed by the largest juiciest fruits every day. They kindly left them for me to pick and I picked tons. Now some might say, that these blackberries may have been tainted with the fumes from the cars. They may have been, but they were the best I could find and it would have been a shame to ignore them....free food indeed.
One day I was merrily picking, my third visit that week, when I noticed a burly security guard ambling toward me. I presumed I was infringing some rule about the park and ride car park, i.e. that I was supposed to park and then ride, not park and pick!
'Sorry,' I called, before he'd quite reached me. 'I'm picking all your blackberries.'
He stood beside me as I continued to pick.
'I saw you on the cameras,' he said. 'You've been here before.'
He was about 35yo, his accent possibly from London. He stared at the black fruits I was picking as I popped them into my pot. Some were so ripe they burst, sweet juice staining my fingers. His face screwed up, into the kind of face you get if you suck a lemon.....
'How d'ya know if they're ripe?'
'Well, they're black.' I said. 'And really sweet...Here taste one.'
'Urghhh, no thanks. I only eat stuff from a supermarket me! And I only like it washed and wrapped in plastic, then I know it's clean.'
He left me to forage....clearly thinking I was deranged. Still, more for me! I didn't have to share my crop.
It worries me that we are ignoring readily available produce. My garden is filled with ground elder, cow parsley, nettles, jack-by-the-hedge. All plants we've forgotten how to cook. I've got a new book: Food for Free a Collins gem. I'm determined to eat my way through the garden and hedgerows...safely!
This year my family can be sure of fume free blackberries, apples, pears, sloes, damsons, cherries.....and so much more. I count my blessings and my vitamins...not a cellophane wrapper in sight.