When I first moved to California, I was amazed at all the edible stuff that you find just growing everywhere. My first apartment backed onto a nature preserve where I discovered an avocado tree and an abundance of fennel. Citrus trees abound. Rosemary is the drought-tolerant landscaping plant of choice. And, growing like weeds along many paths and roadways, you can find blackberry bushes, working their way out across the ground. Earlier this year, I had noted a particularly large growth of blackberries on the side of a nearby bike trail. When I saw blackberries showing up at the produce market again, I decided to see what wild specimens might be available.
On Saturday morning, I woke up, donned long sleeves and work pants (blackberries can be quite thorny), hopped on my bike, and headed off. I spent a few miles meandering along, pausing to make note of these trees that looked kind of like walnuts:
I need to find out if they are an edible relative!
Eventually, I came out into a bright sunny spot and found the bushes that I remembered. Sure enough, there were blackberries:
Unfortunately, the local berries don’t seem to have hit peak ripeness yet, as there were still lots of sour red berries. But, there were enough ripe berries to make the trip worthwhile. After an industrious picking session, I had a large container of berries to show for my troubles:
And some very purple fingers:
I put two cups of blackberries aside in the freezer for later use, and the rest we have been mixing up with sliced nectarine to eat for dessert–a perfect reward for the few small scratches I landed on my hands while picking.
While taking a morning to harvest a single container of blackberries is probably not the most “efficient” use of my time (which is something I often focus on when cooking), I’d still do it again. After all, I got a great bike ride through a beautiful area out of it! More to the point, after spending an hour picking my way through brambles and dodging scratches, I felt some renewed appreciation for just how amazing it is that I have a market full of produce at my disposal, where I can walk in at anytime and leave with a bag full of fresh produce, just like that (well, there are some small details like payment involved, but let’s pay attention to the bigger picture, right?).