It is black raspberry season again. Last year's jam was a bit of a disappointment (a bit SEEDY, despite laborious measures taken which removed huge wads of seeds but also left behind huge wads of seeds because, according to Paul and William's research, black raspberries have on average 49 seeds per berry), so until today I was letting the children get their snacks outside from the raspberry bushes while I sat in the air conditioning reading the new Elizabeth Berg (which, heavens, she is now at 80% homily-vehicle, 10% unrealistic plot problems (have you read her latest? I would use the spare undies in my backpack or my empty Power Bar wrapper or THE SHIRT I WAS WEARING before I would use DIRT and my HAND), and 10% lists of deliberately interesting/awesome things to find pleasure in such as "crisp bacon on yellow plates, mornings spent talking in bed under a handmade quilt, the smell of a newborn's head, fresh-baked bread on a sunny countertop, lemons in a blue pottery bowl") (nevertheless I continue to read each new book).
Here are my tips for black raspberry picking, gleaned from hard experience:
Tip 1: Begin with a double (MINIMUM) shot of something at least 80 proof. This will make you---well, not IMPERVIOUS, but certainly LESS pervious to the following things:
a. bug bites
b. thorn scratches
c. watching as an earwig crawls off the berry you just picked and onto your fingers
d. feeling a tickle on your arm and discovering it is not a mosquito but a huge black spider
e. moving a branch and having seriously five mosquitoes fly into your face
f. the heat
g. the dripping sweat
h. the thought that maybe, if it is hot and unpleasant outside and you are dripping sweat and enduring mosquitoes and earwigs and spiders and thorns, that perhaps this is not God's Bounty Given For Man To Harvest For Nourishment Of The Body but is instead a clearly-marked GATEWAY TO HELL
Tip 2: Plan to spend some time suffering. This will yield you:
a. A surprisingly full bowl of berries!
b. Many itchy bites and scratches
(These photos are from last year (I see I was advocating liquor back then as well), because when I got inside I found the camera out of batteries and there is ONLY SO MUCH A HUMAN WOMAN CAN TAKE.)
Tip 3: Rinse berries and put in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then freeze for later, when you are in your right mind, decision-making-wise.
I use a non-stick pan, so that they won't stick. I haven't tried a regular one, so I don't know if they DO stick: by the time I'm putting my hard-won berries on a cookie sheet, I am not willing to SCREW AROUND with experiments. Put the sheet of berries in the freezer. When frozen, transfer berries to ziplock freezer bags. This will give you time to think about what end-result is worth the effort it took to pick those berries. Berry crumble? No way. Jam? Too seedy last year. Smoothies? Not when I can buy these for $2 a bag at the grocery store. Dowry for sole female child? MAYBE.
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