Blackberries are among my favorite forms of produce. Especially the extra large Brazos blackberries that my parents grow. They are juicy and tart, and this year there is a higher proportion of really sweet ones. Many are the size of a pigeon egg. No lie.
They are coming to the peak of their season now; a couple of gallon buckets every couple of days. I went to the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort and picked on Saturday after our fishing trip. My mother and Dad and I went back there with our little one-gallon buckets ready to harvest some of the easy picks. It was around noon, and the shade was gone by that time. Though it makes the berries easier to see and pick, the bright sun drains the impetus from the picker.
As the picking progressed, there were some just too full of juice to allow them to be crushed by their own family. These I had to eat immediately. I checked each one destined for the gullet, having learned my lesson too well a while back. And not one berry passes my lips without the thought of something unseen that may be in there haunting me. You see, there are bugs that lay eggs in a berry to ensure that their offspring has a great first meal. There is always the danger (read “probability”) that I am eating some insect’s progeny, but I usually justify it by allowing that the extra protein would be beneficial. And you can’t taste them. Mostly I try not to think about it.
I never even knew about the worms, and thus never worried about it with all of the dewberries that we picked when GranMommy and GranDaddy took us to the wild berry patches when we were kids. The short version is that in the spring, they would take us to San Leon near the railroad tracks and pick berries till our fingers were purple and there were gallons of dewberries ready for use. We had our little Coke case stools, buckets, hats and a snake stick, all issued by the ramrod of the operation. I remember once when I was taking a break; drinking water out of the bleach bottle under the seat of the Dart and then laying on the back seat. When I shut my eyes, I saw berry vines. And berries. Just an image burned into my retinas. And I learned that some of the berries just needed to get eaten right away. We were never scolded or admonished for this; part of the reward for stooping, crouching and kneeling in the sticker, ant and mythical snake-infested berry patch was the joy of popping in a nice, fat, perfectly ripe dewberry.
I’m sure there were larval passengers in them as well, but I never was a witness to them. These days my parents soak their berries in the buckets for ten or fifteen minutes when they bring them into the kitchen to evict the interloping worms. With a few minutes under water, the poor little guys begin to wriggle and float to the surface for a breath of air. That’s when they’re nabbed. Either plucked out and squished or simply washed (warshed) down the drain.
So we always soak the berries. When I got my parcel of about five pounds of them home Saturday, I soaked them dutifully. After the required amount of time, I checked to see how many bug children were present. My mother’s statement from a few days back, “We didn’t have hardly any when we soaked them the other day…” rang in my ears as I watched probably ten or twelve of the little buggers float to the surface. Some were small; less than an eighth of an inch. Others, however looked as though they were outside the slot limit for length governing the harvest of black bass in some Texas lakes! Writhing eels, anacondas, mostly not the pearly white of their smaller cousins, nay, these were long purple colored streamers with a heft and ominous look overall.
They weren’t really all THAT big, only about a quarter of an inch long, but still I was glad there were no game wardens in the area. You never can be too sure.
I made a great cobbler out of three cups of our little purple friends, and there are others refrigerated for eating on cereal in the morning, or just to snack on.
And I am secure in the knowledge that the rest of the big Brazos blackberries that are harvested at the Soderberg Farm are destined for delicious, worm-free blackberry jelly. This goes well on PawPaw’s angel biscuits.
Are you hungry yet?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Posted by aA at 4:58 PM