Rosanna Bauman – Plain Kansas: Summer of the Blackberries

Rosanna Bauman - Plain Kansas: Summer of the Blackberries, 10.0 out of 10 based on 12 ratings
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By Rosanna Bauman

Wow, do we have blackberries! The weather was kind at the right times this spring and summer; just right for a bumper crop of blackberries! I don’t recall ever having so many blackberries, and last year’s production was terrible. We have a small blackberry patch, just a row of eight plants along the edge of the garden. These plants have struggled to survive the dry summers (and the goats!) Every time a goat or a sheep got out of the pen, they would head straight for the young, struggling blackberry plants and quickly nibble off every leaf I realize that raspberry leaves (and I presume blackberries, as well) have medicinal properties, but I don’t think the goats were self-medicating with their greedy gobbling. I ate a leaf myself, because I thought that perhaps the blackberry leaves had a bit of a fruity taste that made the goats desire it so. it didn’t taste like anything more than a prickly leaf! I then remembered that a goat’s taste buds are not that discerning: their greenery of choice is poison ivy leaves!

Despite the abuse, the blackberry plants have finally emerged into large, triumphant plants. With one exception, all of the blackberry bushes are thorn-Less. While the thorn-less ones definitely produce larger fruit, it is the berries produced fror-ri the thorny canes that have the best taste. I was surprised by this, but I shouldn’t be. Sometimes sweet things come out of ugly packages. it is an unfortunate fact of life that thorns always improve sweetness, whether it is fruits, flowers, or character. I am not sure if the thorns are there to protect the sweet fruits and flowers, or if the fruits are sweet despite the thorns. Perhaps it is a little of both.

Theoretically, some of our plants are black raspberries, but I have always thought that that was silly. Blackberries are supposed to be black, and raspberries are supposed to be red. Why would you even want a raspberry black? Besides, the black raspberries look and taste closer to a blackberry than a raspberry, so why even bother? While blackberries aren’t my favorite berry, (that distinction belongs to strawberries and raspberries) they are still a berry. Thus we love them just because they are part of the berry family. I like raspberries because they are the only berry that has that velvet softness and light sweetness. Blackberries are more grown up, and do not pretend to be velvety. They are bold, full of themselves with a rich sweetness and seeds that shout “This is a blackberry!”

We have a neighbor with a large blackberry patch who invited us to come help her pick. She didn’t want the berries to go to waste, but she couldn’t pick them all. Joanna and I went over to pick some to take to Farmers Market. She did have a lot of berries, and they were trellised nicely. Unfortunately, the berries were a little old, so you Would get all excited over a giant, plump berry; but when you went to pick it, it would turn to mush in your hand. This was a little depressing to me, seeing all those great berries go to waste. Joanna, however, saw a lot of potential in those mushy berries. A mushy berry came sailing silently over the blackberry bushes and landed with a surprising splat on my forearm.

“Heyl You got me!” Iexclaimed, much to my sister’s delight. But I continued picking; biding my time, and made no comment as several other berries missed their target andhit the ground around me. Istarted collecting the mushy berries in my palm, instead of dropping them on the ground as Idid before Joanna demonstrated their value. With my hand full of mushy berries, Idlscret&y turned and tossed the handful over the trellis wherethey landed quite satisfactorily on Joanna’s back. Joanna’s shriek led to immediate retaliation, but Ihad found a sudden need to pick the blackberries at the very bottom of the trellis. (The canes above me deflected the berries’ flight path!)

The berry tossing continued at intervals until the sun began to set and we had to stop picking The best shot I got was a berry down the back of Joanna’s shirt, but she got me good with a giant berry on my cheekbone. We looked like walking modern art canvases. Apparently, the delight of finding and tossing the bad berries had affected Joanna’s berry selection mindset, as I discovered that her bucket was full of extremely soft blackberries. Even after she sorted them, the berries were only good for a puree.

The berries are so thick that it’s easy to pick the plants by the garden. We have been averaging two quarts of berries per plant each week. I picked fifteen ripe berries off of just one cluster! Because the fruit is so heavy, the plant can’t support it, and sometimes the entire cluster will snap off; loaded with berries but unable to ripen properly. Talk about over-achievers! Just like when a hen tries laying too large of an egg or me, when Icarry two bags of feed at once, sometimes our ambition bites back. (I always get a stiff neck after putting 100 pounds of feed on my shoulders —  how appropriate!) lust because we are able to be bigger, better, and faster doesn’t mean that we should. This is a hard thing to remember, as our family is, honestly, rather ambitious. Dad likes to remind us of a neighbor who (a couple decades ago) decided he was capable of lifting a transmission from a car to a workbench by himself. While he was able to successfully perform this astounding maneuver, today he has replacement parts in nearly every major joint and is unable to be very active. Ambition can be costly if not used in moderation. Ineed to remember that when it comes to eating the blackberry cobblerl Moderation is also needed in column lengths, so this is The End


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The Discussion

  1. Funny! I’m reminded of my days as a computer programmer – we would shoot rubber bands at each other over the tall, cubical walls. Not quite as messy.

    Here’s a hint for you: poor boiling water through the fruit stains on your clothes. The stains melt away like magic.

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  2. Thank you! Fun to imagine the sneaky berry flinging. You made the job fun and a great story to tell.

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  3. Julie Howson-Reinhart says:

    Rosanna, I know how you feel about the blackberry/raspberry confusion! I’m from England but live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in VA and initially thought the names might be just an American difference or maybe a southern thing? But apparently raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries are three distinct plants.

    The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is by the core, where the stem attaches to the berry. Blackberries will always have a white core, whereas black raspberries are hollow in the center (just like raspberries). Black raspberries are a small, black-colored raspberry covered with very small hairs (much like a raspberry). Blackberries are usually larger, with bigger “cells.” Blackberries are sometimes described as shinier than black raspberries. Black raspberries are harvested earlier than blackberries, and can also handle the cold better. Finally, black raspberries are said to be less tart than blackberries, making them better for eating fresh (though they also make great jams). Blackberries, which can sometimes be rather sour, are great berries for making dessert.

    Sorry about the long-winded comment!

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