Wednesday Wisdom: The Call of the Wild . . . (The Wild Blackberry, That Is)
THE CALL OF THE WILD . . . (THE WILD BLACKBERRY, THAT
Isn't it curious how in so many of our
pastimes and hobbies we play at supplying one or another of our
fundamentally creaturely needs-for food, shelter, even clothing? Michael
Is there a name for a question one asks when he isn't really
interested in the answer to that question, but is actually fishing for
different information or is trying to make a different point? I got one of
those a few weeks ago from one of my children:
"Dad, how much do blackberries cost at Publix?"
The actual answer to his question is around $3 or $4 a pint.
But that wasn't what he really wanted to know. What he really was curious
about is why every year about this time I put on my custom-made picking
gloves and my thorn-resistant gear and head out to pick wild blackberries
in the woods around Harmony, spending hours in the sweltering humidity,
gingerly plucking those sweet morsels from among the vicious bushes.
I had to confess to him that accumulating berries is NOT the
point of picking wild blackberries. If it were just about gathering
berries, of course I could buy them at the store. Or I could go to a berry
farm nearby where I could pick domesticated blackberries that have no
thorns. But what's the sport in that?
Anyone who fishes or hunts could tell you, if they were candid
and honest, that it would be far less expensive to buy their fish or
venison or turkey or duck or elk or whatever at a store or butcher shop,
than to buy a boat, fishing tackle, rifle, camouflage clothing, camping
gear, duck blind, hunting or fishing license, and the hundred other things
required to outfit a hunting or fishing trip. As much as they might want to
prattle on about "free meat" for the freezer, truth be told, when
you do the math, it's actually very expensive eating.
No, there seems to be something very primeval about securing
"free" food from the wild.
To me, it probably started back in my early days as a Boy
Scout in the arid landscapes of northwest New Mexico, when the "Handbook
for Boys" challenged us to locate edible plants in our environment.
Sure, perhaps a hearty outdoorsman could suck a little moisture from a
prickly pear cactus or could stomach a few dandelion leaves from someone's
ill-kept lawn, but that didn't really "count" as far as I was
Only after moving to the Southeast and discovering
blackberries and other fruits growing wild and free did I feel I had
actually completed that requirement from my scouting days. And once I was
hooked on eating wild blackberries, my quest matured into figuring out how
to harvest them without getting hurt by the thorns.
There have been times when I've overdone it, like the year I
picked over five gallons of berries so we could make blackberry cobbler for
200 guests. Yes, that was over the top.
I've also been known to write three Wednesday Wisdom articles
in a single year about lessons learned in the blackberry patch: