Monday, July 4, 2011

What are you picking today?

Maybe I would have found the joys of growing, harvesting, and preserving my own food myself. But perhaps not. Who's to say now? I was, however, introduced to it young by my parents. Both my parents grew up on farms so picking wild berries, having large vegetable gardens, and preserving food was just something you did. And after a death in the family, my family along with other relatives ran my grandparents' dairy farm for some number of years. My farm days started when I was in those gloriously fun neither-kid-nor-adult tween-years. I ended up spending my summers playing on the farm, helping to bring in hay, feeding ducks and geese, throwing green plums at siblings, and so many other experiences that have become very rare in our urbanized America.
Summer Berries

Summer was always a time for wild berries and luscious tomatoes still warm from the sun. Our favorite wild berries were the wild black raspberry (aka "black caps").  The black raspberries grew every where poison ivy grew and where the mosquitos were the most blood-sucking vicious - going berry-picking was always quite an experience! I knew I had to pick 2 quarts so my mom could make jam with them. Oh, and was that jam good!  If I picked more than 2 quarts (which was always the goal in my book), we could have the surplus washed, sprinkled with sugar, and drizzled over french vanilla ice cream - no finer dessert was ever devised by man!

Now I have kids of my own. I teach them to pick berries, some wild and some we grow. All the berries in the picture above we have been picking over the past week. If you don't recognize them all they are (starting at the left and going clockwise) mulberries, strawberries, black raspberries, and juneberries. They are so very tasty, all of them! The kids, my husband, and I have all been picking berries. Some just to munch, some for other purposes like the strawberry jam I made. I'll make some cherry preserves and raspberry jam soon. Mmmmm, they all taste like summer sun when the snow flies.

I urge you to grow and/or pick some food today. If you have young people in your life, share it with them. And if you don't have your own food plants like raspberries or strawberries or a vegetable garden, there are so many U-picks that you can visit for not only for the wonderful food but for the unforgettable memories.  I urge you to also try your hand at making some jam. It is the easiest of all canning to do. Occasionally you get a soft-set, but there are few other failures if you follow the instructions. It is so very easy and so very good.

If jams are not your thing, salsa is another simple thing to make with the summer bounty you can find in your own veggie garden or at the farmers' market. New to canning? If that is the case, I urge you to pick up a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It is the quintessential book of canning and preserving. Have your kids help you pick the tomatoes or even cut the tomatoes. I helped my mom peel and cut oodles of stuff for canning and I still remember it all these many years later. They are good, fond memories that are always warm and comforting to look back on.

I've included some book links below for wild food field guides and cookbooks plus the Ball Blue Book. Check them out. May your summer be fruitful and full of memories!



Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Native Harvests: American Indian Wild Foods and Recipes
Stalking The Wild Asparagus
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
Enduring Harvests: Native American Foods and Festivals for Every Season
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guide)

1 comment:

  1. I am a berry picker too. I pride myself on going over the already picked bushes to find even more ripe fruit that was missed! As a kid I would eat a cup of wild blackberries with milk and sugar on them. I make jams and jellies too.


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