Pleasure and pain get all tangled up when it comes to
one of my favourite summertime activities: blackberry picking.
Those thorny, prickly and invasive bushes that line almost every
urban green space or alleyway can mean bloody murder to anyone in
short-sleeves greedy enough to reach for the blackest berry. The
Himalayan blackberry bush might be seen as a pest to those who feel
that its wild aggressive growth is, well, too wild and aggressive
. Me, I love that darn
bush and I'm happy to have it spread it's tentacles into lane ways,
deserted parking lots and along bike paths. I put up with the cuts,
itchy skin and purple fingers just for that sweet n' tart taste of
a sun-ripened summer. Blackberry bush barbs, be damned!
Since about as long as I've lived in East Vancouver,
I've had my favourite berry spots. Over the years, some of the
bushes have been cut down to make way for new condo developments,
while others have been taken over by a few brave homeless folks who
use the bushes natural defenses to create their own secure shelter.
But new picking spots always seem to spring up and when I find one
I love, I keep it's location close to my heart.
A few years ago, my fondest blackberry picking memory happened on a
weekend bike trip on one of the Gulf Islands. It was hot and sunny
and my husband and I discovered a small hiking trail to the beach
lined with the ripest blackberries I had ever seen. Hot, plump
berries exploded onto my tongue and each berry tasted better than
the one before. With their heady, sweet scent filling the air, I
was swooning in the magic.
While picking in urban Vancouver isn't as romantic as
finding a secluded, sun-drenched island treasure-trove, it has its
own charms. This August long weekend, my husband and I decided to
bring along a couple empty yogurt containers to our weekly tennis
game. After sweating up a storm on the courts, we headed off into
the bushes that surround our local neighbourhood park. Despite all
our snacking, we managed to secure a couple litres worth of ripe,
juicy berries with minimal effort. It's just the start of prime
berry season in Vancouver, meaning there are still a few good
weekends of beautiful blackberry bounty to look forward to.
And what to do with all of this haul? Eating out of
hand is wonderful, as is throwing the berries into yogurt or
granola for a quick breakfast. Blackberry pancakes, jelly and
muffins are also naturals, but why not try something different?
Just toss a handful of berries, lime juice, ice, and some
sugar-syrup into a blender. Whizz away until icy and blendy and
then pour into a glass, topping up with club soda. A bit of vodka
never hurt things either. It's a refreshing drink and the perfect
beverage to nurse your blackberry wounds.
Despite the short growing season, I like to keep that summer-fresh
memory alive by stockpiling blackberries in my freezer (see frozen
berries above) to get me through the long winter months. You can be
sure in the dead of winter, there is nothing better than whipping up a cake
that tastes like it was
French-kissed by summer itself.
Heading out for an afternoon of urban blackberry foraging and
eating fruit right off the vine puts verbiage like "eating local"
into practice. And sourcing out your favourite urban grow-spot
makes blackberries free berries. And free is a great price to pay
for a berry.
Jeannette Ordas is a Vancouver-based Web Designer and Food Blogger who is probably right now thinking
about what she'll make for dinner.
Posted: Sun, Aug 12 2007