Quarting Berries – A Summer Pastime

Rebecca MorganFriends of ELO

Wild berry picking has become a tradition for some in our family.  This began with my dad as far back as I can remember.  Oftentimes these berries were picked in Atlanta, my dad’s old stomping grounds, as a 1948 graduate of Atlanta High School.  He knew where to find them, whether wild blueberries or blackberries.  Over time the landscape has changed and some of these patches have migrated.  But who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?  And fresh berries are most certainly a treasure!  Between the many pies, and homemade wine, my dad’s pursuit of berries could be an obsession at times.  We often tease about who inherited the berry picking gene and who inherited the pie eating gene.  In fact, my dad’s infamous quote was this… “There’s only two kinds of pie I like… Hot & Cold!”  Apparently having both these genes served him well as he lived to 90 years!  My dad was so dedicated to his pursuit of wild blueberries, that one year when he was experiencing extreme knee pain and needed a walker to get around, he still demanded that we head to the berry patch where he literally crawled on his belly to pick berries over the uneven terrain. 

We’ve learned there are years when the berries aren’t much and that very occasionally there will be a banner year!  The conditions have to be just right all along the way from the timing of the last frost to adequate hydration and moderate heat.  But, oh, when those banner years take place, it’s something to behold!  And the treats gleaned from the picking of those berries are an act of love!  Until you’ve actually picked the berries, then made the jellies, jams, pies, etc., you don’t understand the love that goes in.  

There’s something about the initial “plink” of those first berries entering your pail that becomes silent once the bottom of the pail is covered.  From the casual conversation of the pickers to the surrounding sounds of nature.   I remember picking blueberries with my daughter, who was about 15 yards away, when she said… “Hey mom, this one’s a sitter!”  Yes, it can be hard on your back picking these low to the ground berries, but with a sitter, why you get a break from bending over as you strip the bushes, kinda like small grapes!  Be warned, however, at least in Atlanta, as there are rattlesnakes in the area.  I learned not to wear shorts and sandals when I was kindly alerted once that I was too close by that ominous rattle.  

Berry picking is a time for reflection. I think of my dad whenever I pick and am grateful that he passed along the berry picking gene to me.

Rebecca Morgan