Sunday, 24 August 2014

August Musing - 'Blackberry Picking'


"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."
~ 'Blackberry Picking' by Seamus Heaney,1939 - 2013.

Blackberries seem to have ripened early this year and there are only a handful of pickings left now from the bramble which grows on one of the garden boundaries. It has absolutely dripped with fruit this year. Although it isn't a cultivated variety it still yields some tasty fruits which sometimes adorn my morning porridge. The last of this year's crop will accompany some apples which I have just bought back with me from a short trip to see my mum. The fifty plus year old trees in her garden produce apples in abundance. Shame that I was traveling back home by train. Stewed apples, apple crumble ..... the jury is still out but I will be out soon be venturing out to pick the fruit before the birds can beat me to it. How do you like your blackberries?

21 comments:

  1. Blackberry and apple jelly is my favourite - sometimes I freeze the fruit until I have enough!

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    1. Oh now that sounds good Christina says she making a note for next year.

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  2. ~What a wonderfully evocative poem. We don't seem to have many ripe berries yet in the hedgerows - but each year when they are ready it is like an annual pilgrimage to pick them. I don't like all the seeds that stick in your teeth so usually make blackberry jelly and cordial. I love this time of year for all the hedgerow bounty.

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    1. The words are evocative indeed Elaine. The seeds are a pain but then I suppose the berries are designed more for beaks than mouths. It's the best time of year for foraging.

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  3. Oh yes, an apple and blackberry crumble would be very nice! Love them with yoghurt too. :) That poem sums it all up so well and reminded me of picking blackberries as a child. We didn't try and keep the fruit, but set them to strain the same day to make my Mum and Dad's famous bramble jelly! A lovely reminder Anna!

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    1. Glad to read that the poem bought back some happy childhood memories Cathy. It did for me too. Another vote for jelly too! I've been missing out.

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  4. Pie, crumble, whatever, they are always delicious.

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    1. Yes you can't fail to go wrong with blackberries Victoria. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Must read more of Seamus Heaney as I recognise so few of his poems. Strangely, our cultivated blackberries seem to be later than last year. Enjoy your apple and blackberry combinations!

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    1. The same here Cathy - poetry that I must explore further. This poem was included in one of the obituaries last year and I had not come across it before.

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  6. The first lot was a bit watery possibly due to the rain but now they taste better...I love them in muffins (dough with black tea so that they're nice and moist) :)

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    1. Muffins - now there's food for thought Annette. Not sure about the black tea though as I can't abide the taste.

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  7. I love to see them lining the hedgerows best! They look so exuberant and abundant in a kind of merry display of late summer revelry. (Not keen on eating them cos of the pips - though I love the aroma of them cooking).

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    1. They simply glisten in the hedgerows on rainy summer days Ingrid. Your 'late summer revelry' describes them most aptly:) The pips are the downside though aren't they?

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  8. I LOVE blackberries! Can happily have it with anything. Apple and blackberry crumble, bliss!

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    1. Oh crumble is hard to beat! Thanks for you comment.

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  9. Craving crumble right now, the only saving grace for the end of summer! Lovely words!

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  10. Thanks for your comment and welcome Katie. Crumble was certainly the sort of comfort food that would have helped to have eased the pain of yesterday's bank holiday weather.

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  11. I can't say I'm a lover of blackberries but I've inherited a plant on the new plot so I'll have to find something to do with them. I'm a lover of crumbles though so perhaps apple and blackberry crumbles would be the best bet.

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  12. My blackberries went to the birds again...I need to tame the bushes a bit so I can get a few.

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  13. I had some delicious blackberry and apple jam made by a friend of my mum's some years ago. I've never quite been able to replicate the recipe, although I keep trying! The blackberries here are almost finished but I managed to pick a few for some hedgerow jelly the other day. Somehow, it all feels a bit early …

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any
specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.