Blackberries and Me

There is a time in August when I forget how ambivalent I feel about blackberries. I walk along the road or the beach. Knobby globes of dark purple hang from thorny branches and beckon to me. I pluck the biggest, warmed by the sun. The berry separates easily from its stem with the slightest twist of my wrist, still firm enough to maintain its shape despite the pressure of my fingers, and where the stem once existed there is now a hint of purple. My mouth waters as I pop it in. Sweet perfection.

I have a bucket and I fill it quickly. Even as it is at capacity I can’t stop—every branch seems to offer bigger and better fruit. There will be a cobbler tonight, berries with yogurt for breakfast tomorrow. And if there are too many, into the freezer for jam or sorbet later in the year. Who could ask for more?

Fall comes and the pleasure continues. Inebriated robins fly about eating fermented berries.

Then winter arrives and I am not so fond—brambles that could go head to head with anything out of “Sleeping Beauty” begin to thwart me as I consider working in my yard. Where did they all come from?

Spring and these invaders bring both admiration and despair. These plants are survivors. Any tiny piece of a root sends triumphant shoots into the air. Left untouched they could reach 30 feet. And a branch that bends to the ground will sprout roots and get a whole new lease on life. Not to mention the seeds that those drunken robins spread from here to kingdom come last fall. Early summer comes and new plants are everywhere.

Thanks, Luther Burbank! He introduced the Himalayan Blackberry to this country in 1885. Seeds came from India and he admired it as a vigorous backyard plant with abundant fruit. His enthusiasm took a nightmarish turn as birds spread the seeds and the plant’s ability to grow 30 feet in a season became apparent.

I set about digging and pulling in my never-ending effort to tame nature. Briefly, my yard has a modestly urban look, but soon it is clear that I have no chance of winning this battle. I sit back, sigh and wait for August to bring solace.

Blackberry Sorbet

Yield: 3 cups, serves 6

3 cups berries

¾ cup syrup of Cassis

2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice

¼ cup cream

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Strain over a bowl to remove seeds. Freeze in ice cream maker. Eat.

Sara Thompson lives in Longbranch.