Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Paying for blackberries

I bought a punnet of blackberries in the supermarket this week, and anyone who grew up in the country knows how wrong that is.


Blackberries should be picked, not paid for.

They should be dropped into a bucket by sticky fingers running with juice. And the price? Arms scratched by brambles; lips, tongue, teeth and fingers stained vivid purple in witness to the successful forage.

Seeing ten berries in a plastic tray, arranged in a single layer with a padded lining to catch any drips, brought back a flood of childhood memories.

‘Blackberrying’ was an exciting day out in the village where I grew up.

hedgerowIt wasn’t always a bucket. Sometimes it was a plastic bag, strung over the handlebars of a bicycle with a maximum of three gears and tyres with no tread.

We would cycle down the muddy lanes in search of ripe fruit, standing on tiptoe to reach the biggest, fattest, ripest berries that never made it as far as the bucket. When the bags and buckets were finally as full as the picker’s belly, it was time to go home, fingers bright as a Bishop’s robes.

The messy growth of brambles could be seen along railway cuttings and steep banks, over stone walls and old fences, and on any patch of ground left untended for too long. They were at their most prolific in hedgerows, those glorious microcosms of biodiversity circling the fields that dot the landscape all across the UK.

I suspect brambles aren’t so common in Australia, where paddocks can be the size of entire English villages.

‘Down-the-muddy-lanes’ was an actual place, just like ‘over-the-hilly-fields’. The words were run together and spoken as if they constituted a single noun, and we all knew the exact location without any further explanation. It’s only now, years later, that I realise how descriptive those place names were. There were others that I’ve since forgotten, for the path that led past the church, another for the lane that led over the stile and down to the river.

blackberries-263313_1920Who named those places? How many generations ago? Was it the travellers and gypsies who still live on the grounds of the old hat factory? Or did our parents name them to try and pin down their wayward children who roamed the fields and lanes without any supervision?

I don’t know. What I do know is that a small punnet of blackberries brought back such a flood of memories – all so happy and so vivid – that come autumn I intend to be picking blackberries, hopefully with a bucket, a bicycle and CC.




10 comments on “Paying for blackberries

  1. cathmarriott
    January 14, 2016

    Hey Deb,
    Went ‘the back way’ to the King Valley two days ago and came across ‘fields’ of blackberries almost ready for the picking. Along the King Valley there are areas which are not sprayed and easily accessible from the road. The season is much later there and the canes are loaded with berries almost ripe.
    Think I might go back with Pip and Max and see what we can get – and enjoy some of the famous food and wine from the King Valley while we are there.


  2. debhuntwasinbrokenhill
    January 14, 2016

    Ooooh! Cath that sounds wonderful. It’s tempting to drive down there with a bicycle in the back of the car! x


  3. Adele Hughes
    January 15, 2016

    Oh Deb, that does bring memories flooding back of my childhood – such fun picking them & even better, the eating of blackberry pies mum made!
    I wonder if blackberries are the same as mulberries & the rubbing of the green berries & leaves on your fingers removes the stains? Enjoy your share of the berries! Xx


  4. Eliza Waters
    January 15, 2016

    Sweet memories. I remember having to wear long pants and sleeves, despite the heat, to save my skin, but the resultant pie and jam was so worth it!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 15, 2016

      I don’t remember that our blackberries ever made it as far as jam, we were too greedy! But blackberry and apple pie was delicious 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. monsoonwendy
    January 15, 2016

    Deb, it’s not quite as romantic but there are berry farms in Stanley, just near Beechworth and our Albury Summers were always celebrated with at least one hot day of picking. All sorts of berries available and you hardly ever saw snakes!!!
    Channeling you baby as my tentative veggie garden is being established. I am hoping the feathered strings keep our hungry birds away and don’t make them think my veggies are a pick up joint!


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 15, 2016

      Blimey, I can’t imagine I’d have been allowed to go cycling down those muddy lanes if snakes had been on the loose, mind you the odd farmer was sometimes very odd. Good luck with your feathered strings, so beautiful the bower birds will be visiting to see if they can feather their nests!


  6. candidkay
    January 15, 2016

    Used to do something similar with my parents but it was apple orchards. I remember the bees and the stickiness–but also the happiness:). Loved this story. Felt like I was right there with you. If we could all do this type of thing more often, the world would be a lighter place, wouldn’t it?


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      January 16, 2016

      Thanks Kay, such simple pleasures aren’t they? We went apple picking every year too, and the apples would be laid out in boxes in the cupboard under the stairs. They lasted for months, and no spraying with fungicides, sulphur dioxide or 1-MCP either!


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This entry was posted on January 14, 2016 by and tagged , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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