I bought a punnet of blackberries for $3 – there was barely a couple of handfuls, but at the prices growers have been charging recently, they were a bargain.
In terms of memories, they were priceless.
One look at the shining fruit, like clusters of tiny black pearls, and I was back in the old country, a child again, setting out with my parents on a blackberrying expedition. I wore long socks and a long sleeved cardigan to protect my legs and arms from the thorns. I carried a plastic bucket for the blackberries, but I never wore gloves. My small hands were too clumsy in gloves, and I didn’t like to squash the fruit.
We never had to walk far to find wild blackberries. We couldn’t go on private property, of course, but the blackberry bushes grew wild in hedgerows, woods and on common land. The real art was to find a patch that no one else had spotted, where the fruit grew thick and lush.
Blackberries could be tricky. The best clumps were always nearer the centre of the bush, so I’d have to clear a path by moving the outer branches out of my way.
This resulted in a good many scratches, no matter how thick my wooly cardigan.
Then, just as I was separating the large, sun warmed globules from their stems and watching in delight as my bucket filled up, the branch I had hooked out of the way would spring free again, whacking me on the back or behind the knees and trapping me until I could move it back again.
I was convinced that blackberry bushes were an intelligent life form. They moved of their own accord, and caught you just when you thought you had them under control.
After half an hour of blackberrying I was a mass of scratches, and sticky with blackberryjuice. But it was worth it. There would always be one really beautiful big blackberry in the clump, or so I always believed. This would be My Blackberry, my reward for the pain of gathering the fruit, so sweet and lush that it burst like liquid bubbles in my mouth and filled itwith flavor.
When the buckets were all full, we would head home, tired and scratched but looking forward to blackberry jam, blackberry pie and best of all, just plain blackberries with fresh clotted cream on scones.
Nature isn’t allowed to be generous and give anything away for free any more. But I’ll pay my $3 just for the memories.