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Spill Your Blood in a Time-Honored Hunt! Blackberrying

Updated on May 30, 2012

The fun and tears of Blackberrying

"Lookout, Thornley, here comes another baby-snatcher!"
"Lookout, Thornley, here comes another baby-snatcher!"
Can't you just taste them!?
Can't you just taste them!?
What?  No I-pod, no cell phone?   , poor child must be bored to tears!
What? No I-pod, no cell phone? , poor child must be bored to tears!

Blackberrying: “Give up your blood joyfully, the Prize is Worth It!!”

As we move through June and July, our regular walks through the country lanes are augmented by the sight of little, bumpy green berries appearing on the briars all along our way.

These of course are the young blackberries preparing to ripen slowly through the warm months in order for the blackberry to seed in the Autumn, known for no good reason I can determine, as the Fall amongst the cousins across the pond.

I expect they have blackberries, too, the plant is spread across the whole world and is a delight or a scourge, depending on who you are.

Nothing spreads like blackberry bushes: their long shoots grow like a plod’s baton during the riots (OK, you invent the analogies!),

The blackberry requires extreme vigilance by the professional or amateur gardener - especially the latter which the blackberry recognizes immediately: cat-like, greeting him on the stroll around his property with an affectionate thorn-laden tendril around a bare ankle, or even the neck if the blackberry is in a particularly foul mood.

“Ouch,” you cry, swiping at the frond and getting another line of blood-welling scratches along the back of your right hand.(you’re a lefty, bully for you).

Yes, the blackberry is a staunch opponent and bloody well- defended.

These tendrils it sends out all around your garden and anywhere else it lives, are the vanguard of new colonies of blackberry bushes. They easily creep across your garden, commons and woods. I mean, how did this plant become so widespread? It’s tendrils spanned oceans in the past, that’s how!

In fact, mankind would have employed cutting-edge technology and weapons - perhaps even “the” bomb - against the blackberry were it not for one thing. The plant, when in procreative mode, supplies the most delicious, sweet, tart and tasty berry on the surface of the planet, and the fruit that comes to mind when the word “Blackberry” is mentioned.

Once upon a time, every kid worth the name went black-berrying in the season (late July, August through mid October, depending on the weather - a factor no one relies on in Britain).

They would take the usual equipment for volume gathering - the berries played a large part in people’s diet before refined sugar poisons took over - this would include a basket to hold the prizes, a long stick with a crook at the end (when I went, there was a crook at both ends, but that’s another tale). Then there would be a stout smock and glovesof some kind to make it difficult for the blackberry’s thorns to inflict serious injury. Some tourniquets for when the garment failed, and to prevent the child bleeding to death before he could be rushed to emergency (mum with the Dettol and band-aids).

It was fun back then to accompany a group of adults and kids out blackberrying along one of our lilac-charged lanes.

Young Sammy would look innocently up at a red-faced father, unsuccessfully trying to remove a well-placed thorn from behind his ear. “What does ’fuckit’ mean, daddy?”

The language heard amongst a group of inexperienced blackberryers can have cows in nearby fields covering their ears!

The blackberry is no novice in these contests. She realizes her succulent offspring are in great demand by these noisy little pests who charge about, crushing her bushes, blowing foul smoke over her, and stealing her children.

So she has a few tricks up her sleeve. One is to place several of the most luscious and perfectly ripe berries just out of reach of even the longest sticks, right in the center of the clump.

Being human, these are the ones blackberry gatherers immediately desire beyond all reason.

They strain and stretch, ignoring the pain and copious blood-letting until they can just touch that king of all berries. Watching carefully, at just that moment, the blackberry releases its tiny stalk and it falls like a plum-bob right into the hidden recesses of the plant (You may hear a rabbity voice say, “Jee, tanks, doc!”)

Another ruse which has succeeded over time immemorial for the blackberry involves the use of some friends. On the one occasion that the hunter is successful and secures that prize berry he has fought so hard to get, he pops it in his mouth…”this one is mine,” he grins triumphantly at his baby sister who has her hand out for it.

“Waaaaaaaa, Erkkkkkkk, it’s got a maggot” he cries projectile vomiting over all the family. The blackberry rustles its leaves in satisfaction.

Today - in 2012 - most people buy their blackberries in the supermarket. These are the commercially grown variety: expensive, fat, glossy, uniform in size and shape, but not quite as tart and tasty as the wild variety.

So British blackberries grow ripe in peace and are eaten by birds who propagate the plant, or fall to the ground becoming part of the plant’s colonizing effort.
I often walk up our nearby Flitchway - once a train service, now a rather lovely lane - and steal a few blackberries to lighten the journey. I rarely get pricked by the blackberry…I sort of think the magnificent and tough brambles might miss the legions of youngsters who once came a’berrying every Fall; the same kids who are now lolling in front of the telly, or texting each other all day with I-pods glued to their ears. The blackberry will rip a kid to pieces trying to take its babies with a cell phone in one hand.

The cows, too, who wander over to the bushes when they are loaded with ripe fruit, may miss the good old days when red-faced and perspiring parents turned the air blue and had the bovines covering their ears.

You never know, in these hard economic times when Tesco and their ilk push draconian prices up daily, held in the philosophy of profit and greed, the kids might be impelled to return to the hedgerows and substitute the family diet with free, delicious and nutritious blackberries…

Shhhh! Don’t broadcast this fact, the blackberry will go back to rearming itself instead of concentrating on berry production…


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    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      Waaaaaaa! Erkkkkkk! I've just gotta use that sometime. Loved your great blackberry stories...and the blackberries too! Great share here :-)

    • Dee42 profile image

      Dee42 5 years ago from Beautiful Arkansas

      It's a joy to read your work and you are a blessing here on HubPages. You and your hubs are very interesting, something different. I'm a fan.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 5 years ago from Texas

      I Remember growing up on a farm and picking blackberries in the late summer and early fall. I don't care for blackberries very much after picking them.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks for all the warm comments on this unremarkable article. I am moving at the moment, so please excuse me not answering individually. I hae read ALL the comments and I thank you all again


    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Bob.Oh the simple pleasures of life. I have Black berried all my life, and used to take my daughter when she was little too. You can´t beat a nice bit of Blackberrry and Apple crumble with a good dollop of extra thick cream...delicious. Kid´s today don´t have the freedom we had as kids, but would they know what to do with it if they did? Maybe they´ll just settle for picking Black berries on those hand held game thingy´s that are giving them all RSI !!!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Best hub I have seen all day. The title is a hoot. Oh- the stories I can tell of black berrying. Noticed there were some maturing down by the creek Saturday. Will have to keep watch. Nothing better than sweet black berries.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

      elderberries, too.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Bob e great thing - possibly the best - about living in the Midwest is that we can grow just about anything here. I have a blackberry, blueberry bush and grape vine growing on my patio right now. We have blackberries everywhere here too! We also used to go picking gooseberries when we were little. Mmm mm Gooseberry pie! Have you ever had those? They are not as good as blackberries I don't think.

    • profile image

      Edwin Brown 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Great article. Here in western Oregon, we have wild blackberries galore. Most are domesticated varieties that "jumped the fence" with the help of birds like the starlings. Himalayas and Evergreen. Actually, they have become a pest, taking over almost any unused space - along roads, empty lots, along rivers and creeks.

      But I pick gobs of 'em each August and we freeze them for pies and for jam. Absolutely delicious, and very healthy too.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hello Bob,

      Autumn is such a great word, and a favorite among song writers and poets. It's also the season when leaves 'fall' from the trees, thus the awful name.

      Picking raspberries and blackberries was a lesson in both caution and reward for a small Iowa boy!

      This is a superb Hub.

    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 5 years ago from Maine

      What great memories your hub invoked! Our farm house in Maine had cultivated and wild blackberries and I was the champion. I had the unbelievable skill of maneuvering through the thorns to get all the good ones on the inside of the overgrowth and to NOT eat any while I picked!

      Mmm, I can still smell their sweet, earthy smell on a hot September day. And all the squashed plants and berries caused by the bears coming to scratch their backs with the huge thorns!!

      Voted up and shared!

    • stricktlydating profile image

      StricktlyDating 5 years ago from Australia

      Yumm! Blackberries! I also have fond memories of picking mulberries, filling up a bucket and taking them home to mum to make a pie when I was younger too :)

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      What an excellent article. Informative and entertaining all at once. I salute you. Voted up and shared!

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      This was such a joy to read. I have black raspberries all over my property and I can relate to every word you say! I struggle like heck to keep them out of the flower beds and gardens. Those thorns are killers! Though I let them go untamed along the edges for the woods becuase I love to pick them. I get bowls full. I also get pricked fingers, fruit staned hands, and attacked by mosquitos. Andit is worth it! :)

      When my new neighbor bought his house he planted some black raspberries along one of his fence lines. I laughed! Little does he know he will soon be fighting the natural ones just like me!

      You have me looking forward to some berry picking!!!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a beautiful article and it brings back memories of picking wild blackberries on the farm in Wisconsin where I grew up. Yes, picking blackberries was going to war against the thorns, but it was definitely worth it. The berries were so delicious over cereal in the morning, and my mom could really make some great blackberry jam. Voted up and sharing.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      Can remember growing up on a farm and in the summers there would be blackberries and black raspberries growing in our woods. Our neighbors had bigger farms and sold their cash crops to Green Giant and the like. Seems like once they started spreading the herbicides and pesticides with spray planes the berry bushes all disappeared even though they were yards and even acres away from the land being sprayed.

      Interesting hub. A walk down memory lane for you from the sound , , ,