A fun time summer chore
By Clif Knight
The tame blackberries that are sold at Hartselle Farmers Market remind me of picking and eating the blackberries that grew wild on our farm when I was a kid.
Tame blackberries are grown on vines that have no thorns. They’re larger and have bigger seeds than the ones we picked. They’re equally as good when used to make cobbler pies when the seeds are not a problem.
My siblings and I received our notice to go blackberry picking around the Fourth of July each year. Blackberry patches were plentiful. They existed anywhere row crops were not grown on ditch banks, in hedgerows and on low-lying land adjacent to creeks. The biggest and juiciest berries were often found on vines that were the hardest to reach.
Our mother made sure we were properly dressed to work in briars and around snakes. Protective clothing also reduced the risk of us being infested with red bugs. We had to wear our work shoes, long-legged pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect our skin from briar cuts and scratches. Each of us was given a picking bucket, the size depending on our age.
Reaching a good picking spot sometimes required leaving a roadway and blazing our own trail through thick woods and head-high weeds, vines and bushes. A picking could last two to three hours before all of our buckets were filled and leave each of us with the usual signs of berry pickers – sweat-soaked shirts, blue hands and briar-pricked fingers, not to mention the itching that would come later from the attachment of red bugs to our skin.
The greater our success the higher was the chance that we’d be asked by our father to go back and pick more.
“I have some customers on my peddling route who have asked if I can pick them some blackberries,” he would say. “They’ll pay $5 per gallon, and I’ll split that with you all for every gallon you pick.” That was all the motivation we needed to fill our pockets with spending money.
In the meantime, we looked forward to enjoying the blackberry cobbler pies and the jams and jellies that would find their way to our kitchen table.