A Berry Good Week

by Justin

Early last week I read this post by Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardner Cook (a blog I should add to my links page come to think of it) about his go-to books on foraging.

This, combined with a suggestion from a friend that I keep a look-out for wild blackberries on a bike trail that I frequently visit, got me pretty excited about finding tasty snacks out in the middle of nowhere.

So I got on my bike and pedaled out to the trail nearby where I thought I had been directed to find those blackberries. I got off the bike near the university canoe cabin and started walking around in the woods hunting for berries.

That first day didn’t go very well. I wound up getting caught in the rain and I didn’t find any berries in the area surrounding that canoe cabin.

But I wasn’t going to let that first day be a total failure. On my ride back to the house, I passed a ton of bushes with these tiny little red berries on them that remind me of red hots or maybe baby cherry sours. They grow everywhere out here, and nobody ever mentions them, so I was pretty certain they were inedible.  But that doesn’t mean that forest-adventure Justin wasn’t going to taste them anyway. I’m an amateur forager now! What else could I do?

I pulled the bike over and popped one of these babies into my mouth. My first thought was: not bad.

They tasted like a mild grocery store blueberry, at first. You know, like one of the bottom ones that got squished and had seemed to age a little quicker than the rest. A little bit tasteless, but still resembles a blueberry, and then OH GAWD!!!

Spit! Spit! Yech! SPIT-IT-OUT!!! Goodness gracious…and so on.

Right at the end when I was just about to swallow the berry, the thing bit me right in the tongue sensors that God placed there to detect anything disgusting.

It was a very awful time to have forgotten to bring my water bottle along for the short ride.

I rode my bike home and stopped in to check on the carrots that I am trying to grow in my back yard. I yanked one out of a crowded cluster and snorted at how wee the tiny little thing was. No success today, but then again, I shouldn’t have expected my lazy carrot patch to cheer me up anyway.

And by now you are probably wondering when things are supposed to start turning up – when things started going berry well. The answer is quite plainly: right now.

Forest-adventure Justin was not giving up. I had remembered spotting what I thought was a wild raspberry bush on another trail that I walk on with the kiddos. I was determined to investigate, so I struck out on the trail looking for that spot again.

This time I was successful! Wild raspberries!

After that first day in the rain, and after eating that on yucky-berry (only the most precise technical categorization will do), I sure needed this win. Success tastes like tart raspberries, it turns out.

I guess that day on the trail peeking outside the ends of my peripheral vision gave me some kind of enhanced perspective. I found berries just like these raspberries growing in many places along that second bike trail.

That perspective came in handy when I went back out to check out my carrots and saw something even more amazing. Nearby where I planted those carrots, I found a gigantic stand of raspberries that I had previously disregarded as a cluster of weeds and thorny sticker-bushes.

I went inside the house and grabbed a bowl with which to collect some berries. It filled up quickly.

It filled up too quickly, actually. This is just the easy-to-reach stuff from one edge. The middle of the patch is dense with ripe berries.

I’ve spent almost every day this week picking about 2-3 quarts of berries out of this patch, and I haven’t only been able to clear out 30-40% of the ripe stuff, and much more is coming.

Needless to say, those carrots have been ignored for most of this week, although I’ve really got to finish thinning them out.

I wish I could say success ended there. Since I found those first raspberries on the trail, I’ve been seeing berries EVERYWHERE.

Remember that first outing I took in the rain? I returned to that same trail late in the week and without even thinking about berries, I walked right by two large bushes of black-cap blackberries.

They aren’t quite ripe yet, but there were few early berries that made their way into my tummy.

Sweet. Tart. Delicious.

So can I make it as an amateur forager? There’s no way I’ll be as good as Hank Shaw anytime soon. If you read his blog, he’s into some serious stuff. But at the end of this week, I am rather encouraged. I’ll try and post how future excursions go for forest-adventure Justin.

But right now, I can say that I’ve had a berry good week.