Foraging

“What happened to you?”   I was at a party, sunk into a deep, comfortable couch with a cocktail raised to my lips.  Another guest had glanced idly at my bare legs, then looked again, covered as they were in an impressive network of scratches that sort of resembled a road map—there were bigger scratches like freeways, others the merest faint logging trail—and hence the question.

In the sudden lull, I looked down, laughed, and said, “Picking blackberries.”

Everyone nodded.

The temperature had crept steadily up all week, until it was in the 90’s by the weekend.  I love hot weather.  While all of the other Seattleites made a beeline for the movies or sprawled in front of their air conditioners moaning softly and eating ice cream, I was in my element.  Like a lizard coming to life on a hot rock, I stretched and relaxed, my toes and fingers warmed, my very bones seemed full of sunshine.  I was drunk on it—grinning and euphoric.  Oh, the joys of putting on shorts and sandals and sunscreen.  The pleasure of visible toenail polish!

I knew exactly how I wanted to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.  I collected my ice cream buckets and my sister, and we went berry picking.  Blackberries grow wild all over the place here—they are literally weeds.  And I’ve got a sweet picking spot, with easy to access blackberry vines running alongside a footpath.

It was glorious.  We put on our sunhats and worked our way down the trail.  We chatted a little, but mostly just focused on the hunting and gathering.  While the easy to pick berries were plentiful, the best ones inevitably dangled tantalizingly just beyond arms length, tempting us to step just a tiny bit into the bramble, to reach just a little farther…

The sun beat down on  my shoulders, the back of my legs, and the tops of my feet, so bright I could almost feel the yellow of it on my skin.  A stream gurgled out of sight, somewhere just behind the blackberry brambles.  The occasional crow wheeled overhead.  Every now and then a bicycle whizzed by.  Bumble bees accompanied us, their constant buzzing a hypnotic Buddhist chant in the background—strong and soothing and continuous.

It occurred to me that we were part of  legions of women throughout history who have foraged side by side, patiently, persistently.  The earth turns, the seasons change, but all over the world women are always out there, digging, gathering, gleaning at the edges of fields, filling buckets and sacks with the bounty.

My thoughts wandered along these lines, then stilled.  Picking berries is a meditation, a prayer, a walking zazen.  As hands move from vine to bucket, vine to bucket, vine to bucket, the monkey mind settles down.

At last, after what could have been just an hour or all afternoon, our gallon buckets were full to overflowing.  When we couldn’t put a berry in without three more falling out, we wandered back to the car, our flip-flops smacking the hot asphalt–with scratched legs, sticky purple fingers, sunburn and freckles wherever the sunscreen couldn’t keep up, and enough blackberries to make a whole lot of jam.

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13 thoughts on “Foraging

  1. Natalie

    Forgive me: I was under the impression it rained for most of the year in Seattle? I guess that is one of those myths like all English people live within commuting distance of London! Foraging is a great pastime. I have my eye on lots of hazlenut trees that are on the trail near us. My mum has been spending a lot of time collecting bilberrys on the golf course near her house which she has been turning in to lots of pies! Today I have made some jam out of the surplus! Great post, as always.

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      No, you were right about Seattle being rainy! I think our weather is similar to England. We usually only get really hot weather for a few weeks in August or September, so we have to make the most of it when the sun shines!

      Bilberrys are simliar to blueberries, right?

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Yes they are similar, they are more red in colour than blue and are smaller. I prefer bilberries to be honest as they are not as sweet.

        Count yourself lucky you have nice Augusts, we have just got back from a hike and have been dressed in our waterproofs and fleecy jackets!

  2. CopyKat Recipes

    I love to forge too! My favorite is hunting for wild mushrooms of the edible variety. I get such a sense of the thrill of not knowing what you are going to find. I really love hunting for mushrooms! I know where you are coming from. I have done my collecting of Dewberries, they are like blackberries, but they arrive a couple of weeks sooner, and I think are bigger and sweeter.

    Reply
  3. Abby

    I’ve never actually been blackberry picking; I think it’s the word “bramble” that keeps me away! But I DO love blackberries so!

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Sort of like brer rabbit in the brambles? It’s easy if you have a good spot and enough self control to keep to the edges!

      Reply
  4. Chef Dennis

    I use to pick wild blackberries by my house growing up, there were so many I would sell flats of them! I do remember the scratches and the stains on my fingers….but also how much fun it was!

    Reply
  5. Tami

    Thanks for reminding me to get at it! I’ve been lacking in blackberry picking these last couple summer and I’m determined to get back at it this year. There’s something quite amazing about blackberry picking. coming home with some that lovely and FREE seems freeing indeed. Why pay money for berries when these seeming weeds are everywhere. Lovely foraging… a summer must!

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      I’m glad I don’t have to cope with deer in my yard. Spiders, slugs, rodents, raccoons, and the neighbors dogs are more than enough!

      Reply

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