June 12, 2012

What a Wonderful Evening!

We have been keeping our eye on the wild blackberry bushes which grow profusely along the banks of the creek.  They should be ready to harvest in early to mid July. However, when I got home from work tonight, my husband Michael informed me that he had decided to take the long route home from his trip to the dumpster at lunch today.  He took the path along the creek that runs through the Secret Garden with the intent to check on the wild plums which ripen much earlier than the berries.  Intertwined in one of the plum trees were the largest berries he had ever seen; and, they were ripe!   Most of them were growing out of reach on the other side of the creek; however, there were a few vines that had climbed over a tree branch and he was able to pluck a few off and bring them home.

He first told me about them and then he showed them to me.  WOW!  He was right they were really big berries!

We decided that although it was probably 100 degrees outside, we really needed to try to get more of those berries.  They were ready to be harvested and in this heat they might not make it to the weekend.  I had won a pair of steel toed, rubber hip boots at the Building Safety Month raffle at work and had been waiting for an opportunity to test them out.  So, I pulled them on over a pair of leggings, got my berry basket ready and we headed out the door.

We decided to cross over the creek and attempt an attack  from the back while they weren't looking.  Trudging through brush and climbing up and down steep creek banks in 100 degree weather wearing boots that weigh a ton and are just a size or two too large was no easy task.  I felt like my legs weighed 100 pounds each.  Once we reached a spot where the berries were growing we realized that the ripe berries were hanging on vines that actually hung over a steep side of the creek and there was no way of reaching them without potentially taking a pretty nasty fall 7 or 8 feet down into the water.  We regrouped, after also realizing that we had probably gone through several bushes of poison oak in our efforts to each those darn berries, and decided that I would actually need to go down into the creek.  Once in the creek with my hip boots (that was fun - they work really well - good traction) I was able to grab a few of the vines with my bamboo walking stick (which doubles as a magic dragon fly wand) and pull them within reach.

After all that effort, we ended up with only a couple dozen berries and decided to head home--somewhat disappointed, extremely overheated, and, frankly, I was worn out.  Who needs a membership to a gym when you have steel toed rubber hip boots?

We washed them up and had just enough to make fresh wild berry smoothies.  Oh my, you should have tasted them.  I make fruit smoothies quit often in the summer months with frozen berries.   What  difference! The smoothies we had tonight tasted absolutely incredible!   I'm afraid I've now been spoiled and will have a hard time enjoying my frozen berry smoothies from this point forward.

Our first harvest of the summer.  Look at the size of those berries!

First Harvest of the Season

While we were sitting out on the balcony enjoying the fruit of our labor, we kept wondering what kind of berries we had found. All of the other berries are still very green; but these (and we believe this is the only location in the entire Secret Garden where they can be found) were very, very ripe. We did a little research and have concluded that they may be Black Butte berries. Black Butte is considered the "World's Largest" Blackberry. This huge, sweet berry reaches one inch in diameter and two inches long. This makes it nearly twice the size of other blackberries. Black Butte ripen four to six weeks earlier than many other blackberries.

This year should prove to be a pretty good year in terms of berry harvest.  One of our competitors (a neighbor who had also discovered the Secret Garden and would many times get to them before we could) has moved away.    We shall see and hopefully I will be able to find time to keep you all posted.