Black stained fingers and a purple grin!!
Yes it is blackberry picking season again. My son and grandsons had just returned from the swimming hole in the near by river and were delighted with the haul of blackberries they had picked from the bushes surrounding their swimming spot. A large container of juicy black berries was proudly displayed, neatly packed into plastic container ready to deliver to Aunty Jo so she could make the family's favorite berry jam! My grandsons had been hanging out for another jar of this jam, as the last jar had run out over six months ago.
|Part of the Blackberry Haul|
Their sticky fingers and stained smiles brought back childhood memories of summer holidays at my Nanna's (Christina Sterland Carraige, nee Lee) house in Milton, NSW. My sisters and I, and my cousins would head out from our Nanna's house early in the morning to collect blackberries from the nearby fields in the dairy farms that surrounded the small township.
Dressed in old clothes, we would head off with buckets, gardening gloves, gumboots and long sleeve shirts (protection from the sharp spikes of the blackberry bushes). The youngest family members would tag along behind with smaller containers ready to assist.
Those of us with long legs would climb over the fences and then help the youngest scramble over into the field. We would make our way through the long paspalum grass, still damp with the morning dew. We were careful to not disturb the diary cows, flicking the summer flies with their tails as they munched on the grass.
At the bottom of the field we would find the large clumps of blackberry bushes, you could smell the sweet ripe fruit and see the clumps of black shiny berries hanging ready for the picking. First things first!! testing if they tasted any good! We would all pick some of the berries and shove them into our mouths, sweet, juicy and warm from the morning sun! The juice would run down our chins as we grinned with delight.
Then Nanna's voice fare-welling us earlier in the morning would bring us back to reality "Don't eat them all! Bring lots back so I can make some blackberry jam and blackberry pie!" Visions of Nanna's chunky jam on fresh bread with cream and bowls of fresh berries topped with vanilla ice-cream spurred us into action. Buckets were placed strategically near the bushes and we started to fill up the smaller containers from the bushes and then carefully tipping them into the larger buckets.
By mid morning the bedraggled group of cousins, full buckets in hand, arms and legs adorned with purple stains and scratches, faces glowing with a mixture of berry juice and a little sunburn would head back to Nanna's house. Proudly the buckets would be placed on the bench in Nanna's kitchen!
In a short time, with hands and faces washed, the band of cousins would all sit around the kitchen table and hoe into the pile of fresh sandwiches and large glasses of cold cordial that Nanna has prepared. As we munched we would watch her wash and carefully weigh out the berries, preparing them for her part of the blackberry story - the jam making!!