It’s a hot sticky morning in July and I wake up to the bright sun at 6:30am. Why am I up this early? Oh yes, it’s berry picking season.
Yesterday I spent 2 hours in the scorching sun only to pick one pail of Saskatoon berries. Today I’ll be picking raspberries at my Mother-in-law’s acreage. Two hours later I emerge hot, sticky, dirty, and profoundly happy from the raspberry patch.
Saskatoon berries, Weeding, and the Summers of My Youth
As a young girl I helped my parents plant hundreds of Saskatoon berry bushes on our acreage. I hated those bushes. Not only did I have to spend hours of my summer planting them, but I had to pick the rocks around them and weed them for hours on end. There was a point every summer where Mom and I just gave up. The weeds were taller than our 5’5″ frames and took every ounce of strength we had to pull out.
Normal kids in normal families got to have fun during their summer. Sigh.
Finally, after 5 years of waiting, the berries were ready. It was a bumper crop that year. I picked pails and pails until my hands turned blue and I thought I would never get the stain out. Saskatoon berries had never tasted so good.
It was glorious.
Once I caught the berry picking bug, I was hooked. I loved to go out picking berries with my Grandma, who was even more hooked than I was. She knew all the spots where the wild Saskatoon berries grew and wouldn’t leave until every last one was picked.
Sure, sometimes it was boring. Yet the thought of Saskatoon berries on my oatmeal, raspberry pie, or eating sour cherry jam spurred me on.
Related: Simple Raspberry Jam & The Ultimate Easy Cherry Pie
This morning as I picked raspberries, I couldn’t help but think of the generations of prairie women before me–picking berries in the heat, waving off their children’s cries of “I’m bored,” chatting with their fellow berry pickers, and dreaming of what they’ll make with their berries.
I also couldn’t help but think of my sweet grandma, who would have been so proud to see me in her straw gardening hat and a sensible long sleeved, loose shirt appropriate for berry picking. The hat is starting to fray and the shirt is ugly, but I wear them as badges of pride.
Growing up, I always wondered why my grandma and mom planted such a huge garden, canned ridiculous amounts of jam and produce, and stayed up late into the night processing “just one more batch” of corn.
Now I know.
Yes, it is food security for your family. But I know now that it’s also an expression of love.
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What’s your favourite summer fruit to pick? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
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