nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘picking berries

wild strawberries to pick

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In the field around our cabin, the wild strawberries are ready for picking. Red, sweet, delicious.

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‘wild strawberries’ Jane Tims 2016

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If you love picking berries, or eating those first dew-covered berries of summer, you will like my book of poems about gathering and eating wild local foods.

‘within easy reach’ is published by Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock, New Brunswick. The book is illustrated with my drawings and includes lots of information about each wild plant mentioned. The book is available here at Chapel Street Editions or here at Amazon.ca

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For another of my posts about wild strawberries, and a poem about picking wild strawberries, look here.

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Copyright 2017 Jane Tims

Blueberries!

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.

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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)
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Bring the berries, sugar and water to a boil.

When the mixture is bubbling, turn down the heat.

Dumplings:

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
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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.

Enjoy!

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raking blueberries

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the sweep of the rake, the berry

touch, the ring of the tines

vibrato in blue, duet with the wind

in the whispering  pines

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©  Jane Tims  2012

 
 
Warning: 
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.
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growing and gathering – picking berries with friends

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As I am deciding how to organise my poetry manuscript on ‘growing and gathering’ local foods, I am considering the themes of the various poems.  I think these themes will become the sections in my manuscript.

One of the first themes to emerge, perhaps the easiest to examine, is about ‘relationships’.

Although I have often picked berries alone, my best memories are of picking berries with members of my family.  Both my Mom and Dad loved to pick berries.  My Dad was a fast picker and I was always in silent competition with him to pick the most berries… I never won.  My Mom picked berries quickly, but took the time to enjoy the fresh air, the blue sky and the expanse of the berry field.  When I think of picking berries with her, I feel calm and a little lazy.  My relationship with my mother-in-law was also shaped by our many berry-picking experiences; when I pick raspberries, I hear her quiet laughter in the breeze.

As I write poetry for my ‘growing and gathering’ manuscript, I have explored my relationships with the various people in my life.

Some of these are based on real experiences I have had picking berries or gathering greens.   Examples include poems about trying to find an old berry field, now grown over, or how changes in a relationship can be observed over the years in the annual picking of berries.  Although most of the poems are about plants, I have included production of other local foods – so a poem about beekeeping, for example, explores how two people interact during a small emergency.

In other cases, the gathering of local foods is a metaphor for some aspect of a relationship, whether good and bad.  At least some of these metaphors are related to the characteristics of plants or animals – for example, the serrated edges of leaves, the slipperiness of a trout, the gentle feel and fragrance of Bedstraw, or the bitterness of taste common to so many ‘salad’ greens.

Some of the metaphor is based on the place where plants grow.  Examples include the seclusion of many berry-picking spots, or the physical spaces created by rows of corn plants.

As I look over the Table of Contents for my manuscript, I realise some poems will be stronger if placed within another theme.  So I have moved, for example, a poem about picking berries over a three-week period from the theme on ‘relationships’ to a theme about ‘change’.

This consideration of the themes in my poetry has given me a good start to organising the poems, and identifying gaps I have to fill.  I know now there are lots of gaps, and many poems yet to write!

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Bitter Blue

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of all the silvery summer days we spent none so warm sun on

granite boulders round blue berry field miles across hazy miles

away from hearing anything but bees

and berries

plopping in the pail

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beside you I draped my lazy bones on bushes crushed berries and

thick red leaves over moss dark animal trails nudged between rocks

baking berries brown musk rising to meet blue heat

or the still fleet scent

of a waxy berry bell

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melting in my mouth crammed with fruit sometimes pulled from

laden stems more often scooped from your pail full ripe blue pulp

and the bitter shock of a hard green berry never ripe

or a shield bug

with frantic legs

and an edge to her shell

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Published as: ‘Bitter Blue’, Summer 1993, The Amethyst Review 1 (2)

Published on www.nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com on July 31, 2011

© Jane Tims 2012

Warning:
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 – the benefits of eating ‘very local’ foods

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In 2007, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon embarked on a year-long experiment in eating local. Their book, The 100 Mile Diet – A Year of Local Eating, introduced many to the idea of obtaining their food from nearby sources. It reminded people about the thousands of kilometers our food has to travel to make it to our tables. It pointed out some of the barriers to ‘eating local’ and showed how, with a little ingenuity and effort, our diets could be more environmentally conscious and sustainable.

Eating local foods is a sound choice in our illogical world.  It supports local farmers and producers. It mitigates some of the energy costs associated with moving food hundreds of miles to the consumer. It honors our origins and connects us to our ancestors who lived their lives more simply and locally.

Into this concept of eating local, I include the idea of eating wild foods whenever possible. My mother grew up in a time when bulging grocery carts were unheard-of. Without subscribing to any particular theory of eating local, she supplemented her food with wild edibles as a matter of habit. In addition to using rhubarb and currents from her garden, she picked berries when they were in season, tried to convince her family to join her in eating dandelion greens and sour dock, and showed us how to pick spruce gum from spruce trees as a chewy treat.

Eating ‘very local’ has many benefits.  The edible plants growing right outside our doors are filled with nutrients, many are very palatable, even delicious, and they are present in great variety, and in all seasons.  They are free and are easy to harvest and prepare.  Picking berries or chewing spruce gum puts us in touch with nature and helps us to understand our role as a member of the ecosystem.  It honors the people who came before us and helps us connect with the way our parents and grand-parents lived their lives.  Identifying and picking wild plants for food is an enjoyable activity and a way to show your children how to be thrifty, engaged members of the ecosystem.

In an upcoming post, I will look at some of the ethical issues around using wild plants as food.

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six bottles of jam

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I reach up, for a cluster of pin cherries

and stop –

above me, my grand-mother’s hand

dry as a page from her recipes,

age-spotted, worried at the edges

her ankles are swollen, but she is determined –

enough berries for a half-dozen

bottles of pin cherry jam

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© Jane Tims 2012

Warning:
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.
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