Some parts of the country will have ripe blackberries by now, others will have red and green berries in the ditches and will take another fortnight to ripen. My memories of blackberry picking include getting scratched by brambles and eating blackberry and apple pie that evening. I also remember looking at the bottom of my little sandcastle bucket and thinking it looked very empty, going to my mother’s fuller bucket and taking some of hers so mine looked ‘more respectably full’.
It seems good timing to share some poems about the magic of blackberry picking as we are nearing the blackberry picking time.
Gerda Mayer’s poem just describes that feeling of time stopping, of the warm autumn sun shining on the briars and the blackberry pickers, the bitter yet sweet fruit, the feeling of not wanting to go inside to start baking but wanting to stay in the evening sun.
Lieselott Among the Blackberries
By Gerda Mayer
Caught on September’s
her hands reach out
for the sweet dark fruit;
the blackberry spell.
“Hurry up, Lieselott,
it is late.” (Plenty
of time! She
feigns deaf and dawdles.)
Old woman tasting
the last of the fruit,
in sunny oblivion,
in a still brightness.
Seamus Heaney’s poem describes the impatient waiting for the blackberries to ripen, the enthusiasm to pick lots and lots and then not consuming them all before the fungus set in. With freezers now, it is all to easy to store them to eat during the winter – with apples in a pie or as blackberry jam. Heaney describes that childlike enthusiasm, that resilience against the briars and the annual disappointment that the blackberries didn’t keep.
Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Angela Wybrow’s poem is more romantic, how the perfect berries were picked, there’s no mention of briars or scratches or wet shoes. What is particularly lovely is the pride in having helped to create a dish for the tea and I can almost taste that pie.
Blackberry Picking by Angela Wybrow
I have fond memories of going blackberrying
On Sundays, with my Dad, when I was a child.
Situated on the very outskirts of our little town,
The lane was long and winding, lonely and wild.
We worked our way along the prickly hedgerows,
Plucking perfect fruit from amongst the brambles,
But the berries, which were over ripe or under ripe,
Were left behind by us, during our country rambles.
We picked plenty of plump, juicy berries,
And popped them all in to our plastic pot.
Dad seemed to know the very best time to go,
So we always returned home with quite a lot.
Along the way, we spotted spiders in their webs;
Of spiders, I have always been a little scared.
So any fruit which was located round about,
Was more than welcome to stay right there!
The blackberries were taken home to Mum,
Who mixed them up with apples, inside a pie.
I always felt a small sense of pride, as we ate
Those blackberries, picked by my Dad and I.
photo credit: Rhian vK via photopincc
Do you go blackberry picking every autumn? What are your favourite memories of blackberry picking?