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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Friday, November 11, 2005

pickin and grinnin

Several things are necessary to facilitate and even make possible the picking of blueberries. The first real necessity is to have these type bushes either on your property or have them made available to you. I realize this sounds rather basic but being a raiser of blueberries for many years I have come to realize that without the bushes, berries are not going to happen.

The next very important thing to consider is the fact that the season must be right for berries to be picked. Winter is not a good time for blueberry harvesting, even though the weather might be a little more comfortable than the oven-like temperatures we have had in our location during the picking season. The reason winter is not good for picking is because there would not be any berries, or even any leaves. Incidentally, I really think that is why folks call those green things leaves, cause in the winter they leave.

If bushes are available, the season is right and berries are present, care must be taken to be sure the fruit is ripe. The life of the blueberry begins shortly after the flower blooms, bees pollinate them and after the blossom drops a small green berry appears – this is not the time to pick them. Next the berry starts to grow and turn a little rosy in color, darkening slowly to deeper and deeper magenta – still no picking yet.

The color continues to darken until it is dark blue - almost black - but caution must still be exercised to be sure this color goes all the way to the stem. If any red is left on the stem end, it will not pass the tartness taste test. When the dark blue is uniform, it’s time to perform the assessment. Find a clump of berries and select one for the analysis, usually the largest one of the group, pick it and place it in the test chamber – your mouth – and gormandize this small morsel. If it has the tartness of an immature persimmon pickle, it is not ripe and farther waiting is made necessary.

If the taste is right, some sort of vessel must be obtained in which to place the berries after picking. This because if you put them in your pocket, eventually one or more will burst, expelling its coloration into the fabric of the garment where the pocket is located. This would not put you in good standing with the mate that tries to keep the clothes relatively stain-free. One could carry these delights into the house by the handful, but this would tend to also transport small particles of dirt, grass or other outside items to the inside. This would also displease the one spouse that really does not like outside things on the inside.

My containment vessel of choice is a plastic milk carton – after the milk is all gone – with a portion of the top removed, but the handle left in place. This marvel of plasticity is attached to the front belt area to enable the picker to use both hands in the gathering process.

The actual picking can be an art form if properly done. Realize that I still pick as an amateur and the professional may find my methods unorthodox and a bit time consuming. My style might be better if I would go to picking classes, but during the height of the season I don’t have time and after the rush it doesn’t seem nearly so important.

The gathering style I use is known as the “tickle method” and I feel it is much more humane to the berries and the plants than the old fashion “grab and go”, after all, who would want to eat berries that were picked inhumanely? This compassionate technique is accomplished by carefully reaching out to the groups of berries and gently tickling their little bellies. For those of you unaware of the location of this part of the berries anatomy, it is the round part with the small navel-looking thing in the center. Now I do not say that I have actually heard laughter, but if they are ripe they lose their grip on the stem and fall off into your hand – possibly from the hilarity thereof.

This whole picking process is very labor intensive and usually not done for non-family members unless the outsider is being romantically pursued or softened up for a loan. According to my brother, butterbeans (limas) would fall into this same category.

The picking of blueberries is rife with emotion in that while picking, my stomach is grinning in anticipation and my mind and soul are in amazement at God’s tasty creation – God does all things well. ec


Blogger Allison said...

Ticking blueberries! That is truly a skill I've never heard of, but it sounds like a whole lot of fun.

11/11/2005 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger ann said...

This may be one of the best posts I have ever read. You are truly a blessing. Your perspective and true appreciation of His creation is like a breath of fresh air.

Thank you for that. Really.

11/11/2005 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

Ann - and I thank you for your kind words. ec

11/12/2005 12:23:00 AM  

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