The Annual Wild Berry Harvest

As I’m writing this, I’m watching Primrose out by our old apple tree. It was here, and far overgrown, before we moved in. For no discernible reason it has full sized apples on it in July and August of every year, but they are too high for us to pick. They aren’t great quality, so once dropped on the ground the dogs run out to eat them. Any left overs are bagged up and given to the cows. It makes me laugh every year when I watch the dogs excitedly run to the tree and pick up apples. This year, Rosie has learned she can often carry more than one in her mouth. It’s a funny balance to watch her try and pick up one, only to have the other fall out of her mouth. She’s learned how to carry two, and she’s working on figuring out how to carry three.

For them, this is good food. They know how to harvest what nature gives them to supplement their diet and they enjoy every moment of it. In our house it’s the same way.  We of course have our garden, but we also try to take advantage of the wild harvests in our area from sorrel for salads, to grape leaves. Our favorite harvest though, is the annual wild berry harvest.

Each year around this time, the blackberries, black raspberries and raspberries are starting to explode all around us. We go out weekly at first, and then daily, to harvest the berries to make jam with, freeze, turn into a variety of other items or, our favorite, just eat. This year I even found a few wild blueberry plants. There are always more berries than we can even come close to harvesting, even when we go out multiple times per week.

Where we harvest isn’t something we often disclose to people. We’re certain at least a few more people around here know about it, but we’ve never witnessed anyone else out collecting. There are a few reasons I personally love this spot. For starters I’ve never seen this level of wild berries anywhere. Second, the dogs can run free and wild without worrying about vehicles. Third, I love all of the wild flowers that surround the area this time of year. This is where I picked the wild flowers in this post.

Normally this is a family activity, but with Andy on renovation duty it meant I was the sole harvester this year. Well, with the dogs. The dogs and I have an agreement to make it fair: I get the higher berries, and they get the lower ones.

Rosie is also willing to thrash through the thorny vines if it means she might get a succulent raspberry stash, often found past the blackberries.

We had been watching these berries for weeks, just waiting for the first one to turn black. On Friday night I saw the first one and came home with a palm full of berries for Andy. On Saturday I started the first harvest. It was pretty hot out in the morning when we went, and after about a 1/4 of a gallon bag the dogs started panting heavily. I hadn’t anticipated the heat, or that the water would be dried up from the spot we go, so I had to walk the dogs home but not before they managed to find some thick mud to romp through.

I hadn’t even touched 3/4 of the area we harvest from, but of the bit I did harvest the dogs often beat me to the berries first. As is typical, Rosie stays behind to keep picking at a bush while Winnie runs far ahead to find the next batch before I can get to it.

Though we had to call Saturday morning early, we still got a decent harvest. There will be plenty more harvesting days though before the season is over, which doesn’t last very long. It means I’ll be out just about every night this week picking berries, and of course eating as many black raspberries (my favorite of the bunch) as I can while I harvest.

It takes time, and it can get tedious, but they payoff is totally worth it. Harvesting wild food is incredibly satisfying and nature does all the work for you. There’s no weeding, no watering and no mulching. It’s permaculture at it’s finest, and I for one am happy to partake.

Here’s to more berries, more meals and realizing that if we just stop and look around that the good Lord provides if we’re willing to put in some sweat equity.