Ambushing the shrubbery at the local high school takes guts—and a willingness to drive onto school property in broad daylight and operate under a “pick-the-blackberries-now-ask-questions-later” policy. On a Saturday at 3 p.m., Nate, Alex, and I decided that we had what it took to carry out an attack: an appetite for blackberry shortcakes and two plastic containers. It turns out we probably also needed paper towels or those pre-moistened “towelettes,” to clean off the fingers we used to pick the blackberries, but driving home with only one hand on the wheel works well too, as long as you also remember to only open the newly painted front door with the hand that was not picking blackberries.
“Should we be doing this? Will anyone from school see me?” Alex asked, while wearing sky blue shorts, paired with a bright red Ohio State Buckeyes t-shirt.
Though there weren’t any printed signs that said we couldn’t pick the blackberries, I did wonder about the overarching lesson we were teaching our teenage son, but the only thing of substance I could tell him was to maybe not wear such loud color combinations when “sneaking” onto school property that is actually open to the public on the weekends during daylight hours. (Some people who were a lot older looking than high school students were pulling into the parking lot to use the tennis courts. We all just cautiously eyed one another, silently asking each other with just one look, “Are we supposed to be doing this? I won’t tell if you won’t.”)
Despite treacherously sharp thorns and intermittent outbursts of “Ouch! Damn it,” we managed to collect about 3 ½ to 4 cups of blackberries that were just on the brink of over-ripeness. According to Nate, we should have invaded the school property a couple of weeks earlier, but we did end up with enough berries to make some delicious shortcakes.
At home, Nate and Alex promised to wash the berries while I began the shortcake recipe, which I found online through a Betty Crocker site for Bisquick Heart Smart Strawberry Shortcakes. Instead of strawberries, I used blackberries and I didn’t coat them in a half cup of sugar beforehand, as the strawberry shortcake recipe indicated. The blackberries were so ripe I figured they would have turned to syrup if I had added the extra sugar. The entire recipe for the shortcakes can be found here: Heart Smart Strawberry Shortcakes Recipe—BettyCrocker.com
The recipe was so easy to follow that I was done before Alex and Nate finished washing the blackberries. In fact, I was able to change out of my clothes, wash my face, take the shortcakes out of the oven, and find Nate and Alex STILL fussing with the blackberries. They were being extremely careful. Too careful. Then, as I listened to their conversation, I noticed some horrifying snippets of information they let slip out. Words like “worm” and “Is it a maggot?” and oh, no, it’s just “fruit fly larvae” surfaced. Nate even pulled out his laptop and began to do some investigating before blurting out, “Yeah, all the sites confirm that if you eat it, nothing happens. It’s totally harmless. If we wanted to be super careful, we’d soak these things in salt water.”
“Please, don’t!” I said. “Watch!”
I took a handful of blackberries that had only been rinsed at that point and ate them. I don’t know if I ate fruit fly larvae or not, but I suspect that fruit fly larvae don’t taste like chicken. They taste like blackberries. Sweet, delicious “trespassing” worthy blackberries.
Your Turn: Do you have blackberry or raspberry bushes on your property or in your community? What are your memories of picking blackberries/raspberries during late summer?