Activity:Everybody has childhood memories, some so etched you can remember them like they happened yesterday. One of mine is of picking blackberries. We had a patch buried way back in the bushes behind our home which we always said had the best blackberries in the world. Living on a farm and eking out a living our family did not have many things we felt were better than everybody else. Our blackberry patch brought out smugness in me I never knew I had.
The only way we could get to our secret patch is by trail blazing. Typically we’d start by cutting back the branches one-by-one that stood in our way. As we got closer and could see the gigantic plump berries drooping from their weight we’d resort to a more desperate and quicker measure: the board technique. The board technique involved simply dropping a huge plank in front of us and letting it do the work for us. Most of the time the boards shear weight would break through everything that got in it’s the way. It literally paved the way for us. Once it hit the dirt we’d walk along it and make our way to the next unchartered territory. It wouldn’t take long before we had the first juicy blackberry bursting in our mouths.
The rest was easy. My Mom would bring along bowls, pots, whatever she could find that didn’t already have something in it. Once our bowls were full we’d dump them into a huge white tub, the same one she used to wash my little brother in. It wouldn’t take much longer than an hour or two before everything was full.
We knew what our supper would be than night—none other than blackberry sandwiches—white bread with smashed blackberries and sugar sprinkled on top. What did we do with all the other blackberries, you’re probably wondering. They weren’t turned into pie, not even jam, but juice. My Mom would make a blackberry concentrate which we would add water to and drink. I have to be honest, I was never big on blackberry juice. I’d rather have a cup of Tang any day. The juice was only good for a couple of weeks anyway, and then the fuzzy grey mould would appear. The mould actually saved us from a winter of drinking nothing else but blackberry juice. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, we’d have to pour most of the bottles down the drain. I remember having a confused feeling about the whole thing. Most of our prize berries were being thrown out, which just didn’t seem right.
Today if given the choice, my kids would hands-down prefer to pick blackberries over strawberries. Why, because they don’t need to bend over as much. The biggest hang-up however with blackberries are their prickles. They have a way of hooking onto your clothes, especially if you’re wearing polyester. Sometimes they can stab you or scratch your skin. Looking back, I wish I’d been smarter, taken my Mom’s advice and worn long sleeves with pants. When you’re a kid it’s hard to see the logic in wearing more clothes when it’s boiling hot outside, and you’re too lazy to get changed out of your shorts.
It was those childhood memories that inspired me to have a "Blackberry Festival" one summer night. We invited over all our neighbours and everyone had to bring a dish or drink with blackberries in it. Some of the dishes we had at our blackberry festival were a salad with blackberry vinaigrette, pork tenderloin with blackberry glaze, blackberry sangria, blackberry pie, blackberry jello, and blackberry port. These days it’s simple to get a recipe on Google. You can get your kids on board by having a super-duper sundae contest, or if you’re really feeling brave, a blackberry eating contest. I would definitely consider plastic bibs. Blackberry juice is one of the hardest stains I know of to get out. Create whatever twist you want and make your own memories.
Details:Vancouver has a lot of water which blackberries love to grow in. That’s why you often see blackberries next to ditches or alongside ponds, along laneways, and in vacant lots. Quite often these properties are public, in other words yours’ for the taking. Our neighborhood patch is on the school grounds down the street from us. Thankfully, the school is not in session when the blackberries are at their peak, usually mid to the end of August. For more information about Blackberries.