“Annie and Paul and Arthur went out early in the morning, in the summer, looking for mushrooms, hunting through the wet grass, from which the larks were rising, for the white-skinned, wonderful naked bodies crouched secretly in the green. And if they got half a pound they felt exceedingly happy: there was the joy of finding something, the joy of accepting something straight from the hand of nature, and the joy of contributing to the family exchequer.
But the most important harvest, after gleaning for frumenty, was the blackberries. Mrs Morel must buy fruit for puddings on the Saturdays: also she liked blackberries. So Paul and Arthur scoured the coppices and woods and old quarries, so long as a blackberry was to be found, every weekend going on their search. In that region of mining villages blackberries became a comparative rarity. But Paul hunted far and wide. He loved being out in the country, among the bushes.” Sons and Lovers. D.H. Lawrence.
Like Paul, in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, I too, since I was a child, have enjoyed foraging for mushrooms and blackberries, being outdoors in the country, amongst the bushes.
Each day now, when I take Barney and Digby for a walk, I’ll take a bag along for collecting the dark squishy fruit.
What is surprising – and a pointer to the way we have lost touch with nature – is the fact that these days I have the crop almost to myself. Sometimes I even feel that people look at me as if I am crazy – eating fruit from wild plants. How sad it is and how much they are missing.
I suspect they have a fear of consuming anything that hasn’t been processed, packaged and purchased, and it stops them from taking advantage of this abundant, natural food supply.
Plus I am sure that people will claim that they ‘don’t have time’ for the picking or for the cooking.
In my local supermarket blackberries are on offer at £1.99 a punnet. Yet on the lanes not far away you can collect a lot more for free.
In an age when we have lost our connection between what we eat and the land where our food comes from, blackberry picking offers a tangible link to our foraging past.
I’ve always enjoyed pie or crumble made from home-grown cooking apples and freshly picked blackberries, and blackberry jam.
When I was a child, we would store home-grown fruit and vegetables in the garage. Onion tops would be plaited so the onions could be hung from the rafters. The fruit and vegetables would be laid out on newspaper on slatted shelving, making sure that they were spaced and not touching. Apples became more and more wrinkled but sweeter as autumn gradually changed to the long, dark days of winter.
Today, fewer and fewer people stock food up for winter days. Now food is packaged and shipped from all around the world so that customers can buy just what they want when they want. A quick look in the Co-op this morning and most of the fruit came from the U.S.A and Spain.
Perhaps when we decide to return to eating more local foods we will regain our appreciation for the gifts of the different seasons and once again live in harmony with nature’s cycles.