Friday, September 8, 2006

A Bounty Of Blackberries


This is the time of year when I feel very rich, botanically speaking. In a word: Blackberries. We have two kinds of blackberries growing on our property, the Himalayan Blackberry, a giant of a plant that has large, nasty thorns and can put out canes up to 20 feet long, and our native blackberry, which has smaller canes, thorns, growing habit and fruit. I must rather smugly add here that we actually have eight kinds of edible berries on our 2.5 acres and we only planted one of them, our blueberries. All the rest are either indigenous to our area, black and red huckleberries, salal, thimbleberry, and salmonberry, or are the blackberries that have naturalized here. Because the Himalayan blackberry is considered a noxious weed in California, we have to be vigilant in containing its growth to a prescribed area.

These crisp, leading-up-to-autumn mornings will find Clay out in the yard picking a bowl of blackberries. They're fat, juicy and tartly sweet, a perfect topping to our steel-cut oats breakfast. Now is also the time to pick whatever is ripe everyday to save this luscious goodness for winter. Our berries are completely pesticide and any other -cide free, as is all of our property, so the only thing they sometimes have on them is a bit of dust.


Since I freeze the berries for the winter, I don't want to add water to them by washing them, so after picking several quarts, I place them on a large baking sheet and "dust" them by using the cool setting of a hair dryer. This blows off the dust and other bits of garden schmutz that may be clinging to them.

To make the berries ready for bagging and freezing, I carefully spread them out over the baking sheet so they're in a single layer and place them in the freezer for about 1/2 hour or so, until each berry is semi-frozen and won't stick to its neighbors. Then they go into large zip-top freezer bags and back into the freezer, waiting for the perfect moment in the darkest days of winter to brighten an evening meal where I might make a clafoutis or a cobbler for dessert, or top a quickly sauteed chicken or duck breast with blackberry pan sauce. Yum!


This is my berry picking companion, Huckleberry. She's 15 years old, loves blackberries and has learned to pick them off without getting stuck by thorns. Jack loves berries too but, being vertically challenged, is limited to the ones growing close to the ground.
This is my submission to Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly event begun by the ever busy and industrious Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Each week, food bloggers can join in by posting about an herb, plant, garden vegetable, fruit, etc. One of my very favorite food bloggers, Kalyn will 'round-up' the weekly submissions on Sunday evening. Be sure to take a peek at what food bloggers from around the world are saying about their favorite herb or plant. If you'd like to join in, click here to see how.

8 comments:

Mimi J. said...

The first photo looks like an endless sea of black pearls. "Dusting" must take a lot of time — well worth it to have some of those black pearls in the freezer!

Kalyn said...

How completely wonderful to have all those berries. Blackberries are something I've only eaten a few times a year because they're pretty expensive here. I love your method of freezing them. I bet they taste just wonderful in the winter.

You're definitely on my list of favorite food bloggers too! Thanks.

Paz said...

What a bounty, indeed! I love your berry picking companion.

Paz

christine said...

Mimi, Kalyn & Paz,
Today I will have to pick more berries, as each day more ripen. I wish I could share them with all of you and I will, with some posts this winter!

Jann said...

Wonderful photos of berries and your helper, Ms. Huckleberry. She appears to be a natural! Your berries are very large....that means lots of juice for jam!

Julie said...

Eight types of berries on 2.5 acres sounds amazing -- like you're living on your own little slice of the Garden of Eden.

The picture of Huckleberry delicately pulling the berry from the vine is priceless. I've neve heard of another dog eating blackberries from the vine but when I was growing up we had a dog that ate blueberries from the bush. Of course, blueberries are less of a challenge to pick than blackberries, for people or dogs.

sher said...

Oh Christine! That is my idea of heaven. I tried to find good blackberries in the store this weekend, but couldn't. When I was growing up as a child in the South, I picked dewberries--a form of blackberries. It was so nice to be able to go out and pick a big bowl of them.

christine said...

Hi Jann, Julie and Sher,
Thanks for stopping by. Yep! We live in a wonderful, special place and I try to never, ever take it for granted. Wish I could share these treasures with all of you.