poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘picking berries’ Category

spring flowers – service berry bushes

with 4 comments

At this time of year, many ditches and fields in New Brunswick are filled with Serviceberry bushes in bloom. Their delicate white flowers only last a short while but later, in summer, we will be able to pick sweet Serviceberries.



the shad are running


after hard rain

and thin wind

between cold front and warm

riverbanks overflow

and for dinner we have fiddleheads

potatoes and shad, served

with last summer’s Serviceberry jam


Serviceberry bushes are torn fish nets

holes poked through with fingers

white petals scattered over mossy stones

on the river shore



Published as ‘the shad are running’ in within easy reach, 2016, Chapel Street Editions



Copyright Jane Tims 2017

remembering spring – wild strawberries

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I have completed one of the paintings I am preparing for my fall sale of books and paintings. This painting is of the wild strawberries growing at our cabin property.



July 31, 2016 ‘wild strawberries’ (acrylic, gallery edges, 10″ X 8″) Jane Tims


I hope when you see these paintings, they will remind you of the berry-picking seasons to come!


Copyright 2016 Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

August 1, 2016 at 7:00 am

within easy reach – another chance to win a painting

with 5 comments

You will recall that earlier this month I held a draw to win the cover art for my book of poetry within easy reach. Carol Steel, a fellow blogger, was the winner of the painting !


This is to remind you that I am holding a draw to win another painting — ‘berries and brambles’ (18”x 14”, acrylic, gallery edges, unframed). Anyone who has purchased my book from me or my publisher, Chapel Street Editions, has already been entered in the draw. This includes the blog comment folk who entered the earlier draw.


berries and brambles~

There is still time to enter to win the painting! Just purchase my book within easy reach between now and June 30, 2016 from me or my publisher!


The draw will be held in mid-July at my book signing and workshop at the 8th Annual Free School at Falls Brook Center in New Brunswick.


Copyright Jane Tims 2016

Written by jane tims

June 23, 2016 at 7:15 am

Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.)

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Like miniature fireworks, bright bunches of the berries of Highbush Cranberry  (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.) burst along our roadsides in late summer.  Highbush Cranberry is also called Cranberry, Pimbina, and in Quebec,  quatres-saisons des bois.

The Highbush Cranberry is a large deciduous shrub, found in cool woods, thickets, shores and slopes.  It has grey bark and dense reddish-brown twigs.  The large lobed leaves are very similar to red maple.

In spring and summer, the white flowers bloom in a cyme or corymb (a flat-topped or convex open flower-cluster).  Most flowers in the cluster are small, but the outermost flowers are large and showy, making the plant attractive for insect pollinators.

The fruit is a drupe, ellipsoid and brightly colored red or orange.  The juicy, acidic fruit has a very similar flavour to cranberry (Vaccinium spp. L.) and is used for jams and jellies.  The preserves are rich in Vitamin C.



fireworks, quatres-saisons

            (Viburnum trilobum Marsh.)



against a drawing paper sky

some liberated hand

has sketched fireworks


remember precursors in spring?

blowsy cymes, white sputter

of a Catherine wheel


now these berries, ready to pick

bold, spherical outburst

of vermillion sparks


a pyrotechnic flash of red

strontium detonates

in receptive dark


a four-season celebration

spring confetti, berries,

fireworks in fall


cranberry preserves – acidic,

tart blaze of summer sky

winter ignition



© Jane Tims  2012

© Jane Tims  2012


with 18 comments

I love blueberries and so I am very happy – our blueberries are blue and ready for the picking at our summer property.

There are two ways to pick blueberries, with your hands…

or with a rake…

My husband bought me my rake years ago, so I use it when there are lots of berries and most are ripe.  There is a bit of a knack to harvesting with a rake.  The ripe blueberries are loosened and captured with the tines of the rake.  The basic technique is to sweep the surface of the bushes, tipping the rake upward as you sweep, since the ripe berries fall into a tine-less part of the pan.  The experience of raking berries is very different from picking.  The process is less calm, although you do get into a rhythm.  Also, the tines of the rake vibrate as you sweep, making a lovely musical sound!

We compared the yields between picking and raking, and we get about five times as many berries per unit effort with the rake (I am sure professional rakers do much better than this).  The rake gets lots of leaves and debris along with the berries, so the time saved in raking instead of picking is lost in the cleaning (in a professional operation, the debris is removed with fans or another sorting method).

Although we have lots of berries on the property, they are getting fewer each year because the growth of other vegetation crowds the blueberry bushes.  But we have a backup plan!

We also travel to the southern part of the province where the berries are in full production this time of year.  Our preferred place to get blueberries by the box or by the pie is in Pennfield, at McKay’s Wild Blueberry Farm Stand.

We eat most of our own blueberries almost immediately.  They also freeze very well.  Our favorite way to use the berries is by making Blueberry Dumplings.


Blueberry Dumplings

two to three cups of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of water
2 tbsp. of sugar (more if you prefer a sweeter dish)

Bring the berries, sugar and water to a boil.

When the mixture is bubbling, turn down the heat.


1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. of shortening, cut into the flour/baking powder mixture
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk

Mix well and add by spoonfuls to the top of the cooking blueberries.

Cover the pan tightly with a lid (otherwise, you will have a blue-spattered stove).

Cook at low for about 12-15 minutes or until dumplings are fluffy and done in the middle.




raking blueberries


the sweep of the rake, the berry

touch, the ring of the tines

vibrato in blue, duet with the wind

in the whispering  pines



©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

growing and gathering – barriers to eating wild foods

with 10 comments

One of the themes in the poems I have written for my manuscript on ‘growing and gathering’ local foods concerns the ‘barriers’ to eating local foods, especially wild local foods.  Edible wild plants are everywhere around us… why don’t people make more use of them?

The barriers to gathering and eating wild foods are:

1. knowledge – although most people can recognise and even name a few plants, only a few can identify and name every plant they see with certainty.  It you eat a plant, you need to know you won’t be the victim of mistaken identity.   Sometimes very closely related plants are quite different when it comes to their edibility.  A simple example is the Tomato:  the species we eat is Solanum lycopersicum Lam.; a plant from the same genus is the poisonous Common Nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum L.).  The fear of mis-identification and poisoning oneself is a barrier to eating local wild plants.  Also, people can vary greatly in their sensitivity.  One person can eat a plant without effect while another cannot because arthritis is aggravated.

berries of Common Nightshade are poisonous… later in the season, they are red and quite beautiful… children should be warned that all red berries are NOT good to eat

2. access – in order to eat wild plants, you have to know where they grow, you have to be able to go there, and you must have access.  Many people live in urban or sub-urban areas where some species of wild plants just aren’t found.  Even if you have transportation or live in a rural area, access may be a problem.  There may be a lush field of raspberries just up the road, but if there is a locked gate, better get permission!

3. peril – sometimes picking wild plants for food has an unpleasant or dangerous side.  Some plants are poisonous.  Picking berries may mean avoiding sharp thorns!  Sometimes berry picking takes you on a heads-down journey far from the point where you began… you may get lost!  You can look up and not recognise where you are or how to return to your point of origin!

4. contaminants – some locations may not be suitable for collecting and eating wild plants.  For example, plants along busy highways may have high levels of some contaminants.  Berries or other plants growing along the roadside may carry a burden of dust, making them unpalatable.  I wouldn’t make a cup of Sweet Fern tea from the dusty leaves in this photo!

5. convenience – Sometimes gathering or producing wild foods is too demanding of time and energy.  I love collecting maple sap and boiling maple syrup each spring, but it is hard work and takes days to accomplish.  Sometimes you know there is a patch of berries just down the road, but other demands on time take precedence.

6. competition – Wild animals also like edible wild plants.  You may run into a bear while picking berries, or face a moral dilemma when you realise you are keeping the squirrels from a food source!  My garden is always under attack and the battle often seems to outweigh the benefits of having a garden.  This year the enemies are slugs, bunny rabbits and shadows (too much shade).

7. complacency – Sometimes I think, most of the barriers I’ve listed above could be overcome.  But a barrier not so easy to negotiate is one of separation from nature and the associated complacency.  It has become normal not to seek our food in the natural spaces around us.  We go to the grocery store, pick up what we need, and take the easiest route in our exhausted lives.  Even gardens are not as common as they once were.  In my mother’s generation, gardens were the norm.  This partly came from long traditions of growing food, but also from the concept of the ‘Victory Garden’, begun during World War II in order to conserve resources and boost morale.

World War II poster promoting the Victory Garden (Source: Wikimedia Commons, original art by Morley)


The only way I know to return to a simpler life is to take small steps and take them often, so they become habit.  Here are some suggestions:

  • visit the Farmers Market in your community, to obtain fresh produce and to know the history of your food;
  • stop at those market stands along the road and buy produce in season.  In our area, vendors sell lobster, smelt, fiddleheads, strawberries and apples this way;
  • if you have an apple tree in your yard, or wild raspberries in a field nearby, pick them and enjoy;
  • if your apple tree needs pruning and some TLC, talk to a knowledgable person and find out how to return it to production;
  • dig the fishing tackle from the garage and take the kids fishing;
  • grow a pot of fresh herbs on your back deck;
  • learn about one wild plant, find a place where it grows, be certain of the identification, and use it!   Then find another!
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Written by jane tims

July 16, 2012 at 8:23 am

the growing part of ‘growing and gathering’

with 13 comments

So far in my posts, I have talked mostly about harvesting wild edibles.  I am starting to get a little produce from my garden, so I thought I’d do a post for the ‘growing’ side of ‘growing and gathering’.

I have only a small garden, laughable by many standards.  We have too much shade and since I won’t allow the nearby trees to be cut, I must be content with spindly carrots, sorrowful pea vines and a plethora of slugs.  However, I also have lots of perennials and a small herb garden, enough to keep us in regular small harvests of additions for our dinners.

On Monday, I decided to prepare my favourite lunch, couscous, with a gathering from my garden.  I used:

~ a handful of black and red currants (just ripening this week!)

~ a sprig of thyme

~ a few leaves of oregano

~ a small spray of parsley

~ a handful of chives

~ one clove of garlic from the shadowy garden.

To this I added a small purple onion from the grocery store…

I chopped the onion and the herbs quite fine…

I sautéed everything in olive oil, very briefly (to keep it all crisp and keep the currents from going mushy)…

and added the mixture to my couscous, prepared with boiling water and a quarter teaspoon of powdered chicken bullion.

A delicious dinner, a little tart, but perfect for my taste buds!!!!

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

July 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

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