The Herald Bulletin

July 4, 2013

Rick Bramwell: Wild raspberries ripe for picking

By Rick Bramwell
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — Wild raspberry patches come and go, but one of my best is in the city limits of Anderson.

Piles of dirt and construction material were left on a half-acre to grow into scrub brush, mulberry trees and wild black raspberries. I used to share these pickins with some unknown person, but not anymore.

Hundreds of people a day used to drive by this spot, but as far as I could tell just one other person knew about the berries. Weeds would be trampled back to those big shaded black jewels. For 20 years, I never encountered the other picker, but they are gone now.

The business that stood beside the patch has long since gone too. It is sad, but there seem to be few old-timers to teach youngsters about nature’s bounty.

Indeed, one of my softball players, Brittany Contreraz, came to mow my yard. I walked her to a fencerow and instructed her to pick the dark colored berries. “Are they safe to eat?” she asked. I let her know they were the same kind that was in a pie she ate a few days earlier. The young teen enjoyed her find. Perhaps she will take a liking to picking the blackberries that are beginning to turn red.

It is amazing how the largest, juiciest berries grow back in the shade and are difficult to reach. I take on a lot of scratches forcing my way.

Wild raspberries do hold a secret. A few have little worms in them that are difficult to see. I never let that stop me from eating handfuls while I’m picking. Actually, if you pay close attention, you will notice a small shiny spot on the otherwise dry head. However, if you have to look that closely it will take forever to pick enough for a pie.

In other words, a wild black raspberry pie might have a worm or two in it. I could joke about the extra protein, but these worms are quite small. Often the worms come out in the container and can be sorted out.

Thankfully, I have never found worms in blackberries, and they are my favorite. Picking blackberries, on the family farm, was as much a chore as gathering eggs.

Grandma Bertha and Aunt Leona would put sulfur dust around our belts and ankles to ward off ticks and chiggers. Each kid was handed a bucket, the adults two.

A snake called a blue racer was sure to be found in the briar patches. Our terrier dog once killed a snake right in front of me.

When the last bucket was filled, the clan would go skinny dipping in Clifty Creek; the boys in one deep pool and the girls in the other. With all those precautions, I still got chiggers in some inconvenient places.

Fingernail polish over the chigger would deny it oxygen so it would itch three days instead of four. Today, insect repellent with deet does a much better job.

Those black raspberries will be ripe for a few more days. Take a kid and go pick some. No need to tell them about the worms.