July is in full-swing and with it some familiar heat and humidity, but it’s still such a beautiful summer!
Blackberries. With July comes memories of blackberry picking as a child and all the scrumptious treats first my mom, and then my sister and myself, would prepare; namely: jam, cobblers, and best of all: PIE. Blackberry pie is my jam. The butter to my bread. It’s only contender is peach pie with warm cinnamon sauce. But in July, there can be no other pie except the humble yet remarkable blackberry.
In the early nineties, before cell-phones and helicopter parenting, Mom would drop Mara and I off at a nearby conservation area. We were given a wagon, buckets, water, and instructions to be at the rendezvous point at a specific time. Then we were left alone, trudging through the wilderness, to a familiar patch of wild, thorn-encased blackberries sharing space with poison ivy.
It’s remarkable we didn’t meet our demise in those lonely woods, by wild animal or serial killer hiker. One hot July afternoon, Mara began to feel the twinges of heat exhaustion so I laid her out in the shade and kept right on picking. There are sacrifices to be made for blackberry pie, you know. I would often get poison ivy on my face from those outings, turning into an oozing, puffy spectacle known as Cauliflower Girl. The boys were mad about me in those days.*
We’ve been traveling deep in the Ozarks for Hosanna’s horsemanship lessons, to a little farm nestled by a creek and woods. It’s a lovely drive through rich green countryside, and I’m never exactly sure what the speed limit is, though farm trucks and motorcyclists pass me regularly on corkscrew roads. We drive by old white farmhouses, garden patches, fields of corn, and homemade signs that say things like WE HAVE WORMS.
During our recent visit to the horse farm, the owners graciously led us to their blackberry patch to pick the biggest, sweetest, juiciest berries I’ve ever seen! True story. Those blackberries were the epitome of everything a blackberry should be. Three times larger than my thumb, one berry filled your mouth with its juicy goodness. While Hosanna was working with the horses, Drew and I stained our fingers and mouths roaming through the bushes. In short order we picked enough berries for a pie, which became my one fixation. No matter how tired I was, or how many dishes and chores needed to be done, we must! have! pie! Back at home that evening, I quickly put together a homemade crust** and filled it high with the glossy berries. Pie for dessert, pie for breakfast the next morning; that’s how July is done! Until peaches are in season, I’m quite content in my current relationship with Missouri’s obsidian jewels.
Thinking now of blackberry wine,
*There were no boys. Mad or otherwise.
**I must be out of practice! It was not the best crust, being a bit chewy and rather a poor representation of the large amount of pies I’ve made in my lifetime. Such things keep me humble.