Berry Picking Time

Berriesby Anniel10/12/15
Last night I dreamed of my mother when she had come to stay with us for a few months. We took a drive to Eklutna Lake to go berry picking and we wound up where low bush blueberries grew on a steep hillside above the unpaved road. Bear, the children and I stayed low on the hillside and I was only half-aware of my mom going a lot higher. When it was time to leave, there was my mother clinging to rocks and low bushes as she searched for the very last berry to be found.

She began carefully backing down, but if she spotted a single unpicked berry she would inch her way over to get it. I called to her several times to forget anymore berries, but she just could not leave until she was satisfied that she had picked every berry within sight.

What is it in some people that makes them berry pickers? Last night Bear said he didn’t care that there were so many berries still left, we could just go and buy a big bag of frozen berries and make jam from them. Our daughter and I gasped at such sacrilege. He dropped his head and tried to tell us he knew how we felt, but we were still miffed when we headed for bed. He knows there are tons of free berries out there for the picking. And that’s no joking matter. Not to me and some of my kids at any rate.

When I was young we picked black, yellow and red currants along canals and irrigation ditches. We drove into canyons for choke cherries, rose hips and elderberries. We planted strawberries, raspberries and loganberries. We made jam and jelly with our own pectin from apple peelings.

It's pronounced "McKinley"

It’s pronounced “McKinley”

I was the only girl in the family for over 11 years so I was the one to help with all the picking, cooking, straining, bottle washing and stirring. I complained a lot, but loved all that jam and jelly in the winter. Or as my great-uncle John always said, “I ust learned to say yam and they yanged it to yellie.” Yogie Yorgenson was no stranger to us.

Then I moved to Alaska and found I was in Berry Heaven. There were high and low bush blueberries, huckleberries, bog berries, lingonberries, salmon berries, trailing raspberries, and the incomparable nagoon berries. Berry Heaven for sure. When Bear and I married one of his first presents to me was a couple of berry pickers.

Before I had children of my own I often took my nephews berry picking with me. I was once picking high bush blueberries, stepped around the bush and noticed steam still rising from blue colored bear scat not more than six inches in front of me. The bear and I had chosen the same bush. I and my berry picking friends left it to the bear.

One autumn my Bear and I went up north to Broad Pass to visit friends and took our berry pickers and buckets with us. The weather was glorious and the bracken and kinnikinnick were orange andBigBlueberries bright red. Mt. McKinley (I’m a die-hard on name changes), Foraker, Hunter and the other mountains were so clear we could see the cliffs and glaciers, including all of Ruth Glacier. It looked as though we could reach out and touch everything.

We found a slope with low-bush blueberries and climbed up to pick. I would find a new patch of berries on our hillside and sit down to pick the area around me. I think you can guess the color of the seat of my pants.
I stopped to look again at the glory when very silently a huge bald eagle glided not more than 15 feet in front of us. He barely moved the small feathers at the ends of his wings and his eyes watched us carefully as he went past without flapping those wings at all. Such sights happen only once in a human’s life-time.

This year has been a weird berry picking year, and it’s still not over. Berries of any kind in some areas hardly grew at all, while other areas yielded double or triple amounts. By far the most interesting thing is how huge some of the berries have grown. The picture of blue berries above are in a large man’s hands. I have tried to imagine how many berries I would put in Brad Nelson’s Blueberry Muffin Recipe. One? Certainly not more than two. My daughter has recommended that we try abelskiverswith only one blueberry in the middle. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

There are apples and crab apples still to be picked, too. More applesauce, apple butter, and jelly to go. My mother is over on the other side cheering us on.

Maybe we sometimes do live in Heaven, if we open our eyes. • (1230 views)

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35 Responses to Berry Picking Time

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I can understand Bear’s attitude, but I think I would still go along to see and taste some of the berries I have never heard of.

    I’m for several blueberries in Brad’s muffins! All with the goal of improving my health of course.

    • Anniel says:

      KFZ, I sent Brad a photo of my 6’4″ son’s hands holding blueberries bigger than olives. I think the blueberry muffins would be overwhelmed with them. I’m going to try abelskivers soon though. I’m sure the size alone means more health-promoting substance.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I haven’t had much experience with fruit-picking, though when we lived in Galveston (1957-8) I did eat mulberries from a tree in our yard. We had a small (and generally not very productive) grapevine in an earlier house in Louisville, and I vaguely recall that a few friends and I once made some effort at producing a small amount of wine (though without any success).

    • Anniel says:


      There are whole websites and U-tube videos about berry picking. My oldest daughter moved from Alaska and began working Outside, but honestly considered flying back for a week just to pick blueberries. Takes after her grandma, who was really a hard core berry picker.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        There are places within a modest distance of Louisville where one can do personal fruit-picking, but I’ve never tried it. Of course, my physical condition would make it very difficult now even aside from other problems (such as a phobic reaction to flying Hymenoptera).

  3. Rosalys says:

    There aren’t too many wild places left nearby to do free berry picking’, but there is a blueberry farm just three miles from where I live. We have to pay, so why do we pick? Because they are better, fresher, and about half the cost of the blueberries in the stores. I’ve given up on buying the blueberries in the store because they don’t last. Usually, some are already shriveled, and quite often, some have already begun to get moldy! The ones I pick can stay fresh in the fridge for over a week. They also freeze well. Freeze them in a single layer, on a cookie sheet, before putting them in bags, and they keep their shape later on when thawed out for pancakes, muffins, cakes, and pies!

    The blueberry farm has been here in my town for about twenty years. I only just found out about it two years ago!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Annie, I had never heard of ebelskivers before. That site seems to suggest it has attributes of both a pancake and a donut. Sounds like they are worth trying at least once. And one big honkin’ blueberry in the middle might work.

      Rosie, your technique for freezing blueberries sounds interesting. One of the nice things about blueberries is that they do freeze very well. It sounds as if there is even room for improvement.

      I’ve got three small blueberry bushes on the property that I planted this year. I hope they grow into big bushes. I love blueberries.

      • Rosalys says:

        That’s even better than having going to the blueberry farm!

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I know they grow lots and lots of cranberries somewhere way south of here…perhaps in Oregon. I think they’re a big source for Ocean Spray, but I don’t know where that is exactly. But I don’t offhand know of any blueberry farms, although they can grow very well here in Washington.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I gather that cranberries are very tart without some sort of sweetening addition. You might as well go pick lemons.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Hate hate hate hate cranberries. Oh, they’re okay when mixed in with something else in a fruit drink. But you do indeed need a lot of sugar to make them palatable. Even then, I never could stand them.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                We always have cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, though my pharmacist (for my periodic warfarin check-ups) advises not consuming cranberries much. We have a friend who likes cranberry juice (in large quantities) when he has kidney stone twinges.

              • Rosalys says:

                “Hate hate hate hate cranberries.”

                Them’s fightin’ words! Of course they’re tart. Of course they need a lot of sugar. So what? Rhubarb is unpalatable without sugar, too (and a few people I know…!) I bought a bag of apples once that were so sour they could not be eaten. So I made them into a pie. They were so devoid of any sweetness that after peeling and slicing them, my hands weren’t sticky at all. I used a whole cup of sugar in that pie – and it was still tart – but it was the best apple pie I ever had!

                Cranberries are good additions to other things. I like to buy Ocean Spray’s Craisins (dried – and sweetened – cranberries) and throw them into all sorts of things – salads, rice, apple pie, banana bread (which I call cranana bread.) My most favorite muffin is Dunkin’ Donuts’ cranberry orange (which sadly is not always available.) One of the few things that will upset my husband is if any kind of poultry shows up at the dinner table without the accompanying cranberry sauce!

                I believe that most cranberries are grown in New Jersey, putting a whole continent between you and the tart, little delights – and I suppose that suits you just fine. That’s okay. I gladly take your share!

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Elizabeth uses dried craisins and dried blueberries when she makes pancakes (which is generally once in every four Saturdays). As for tart applies, I usually eat Granny Smiths myself (as much for their firmness as for their nice combination of sweet and tart).

        • Anniel says:

          Rosalyn, Plan on taking your Alaska cruise at the end of September and we’ll find you some wild blueberries. Only the bears might keep you away. I once saw a woman drive a bear off by beating a hammer on a metal bucket. Darned if she’d share her berries.

          • Rosalys says:

            Annie, my husband and I went on budget cruise once, to Nassau. I swore I would never take another cruise! About the only way I could be tempted might be an Alaskan cruise. The pictures I’ve seen look breathtaking! Now with the added enticement of wild blueberries…

            I prefer viewing bears with the protection of a cage; whether it surrounds the bear or me doesn’t matter as much as that there be some strong iron bars between us. You’ve got grizzlies up there, right?

            • Anniel says:

              Yes, we do indeed have Grizzlies. They are cantankerous critters. People say that Kodiak bears are just overgrown Grizzlies, but I’m not convinced.

              I’m with you on the need for strong iron bars between me and whatever kind of bear.

      • Anniel says:

        Brad, I see that they are also spelled “aebelskiver” and there are several different sweet or savory versions. I have one of the cast iron pans that cooks six around here, but one of my sons has an electric model that cooks 12 at a time, his wife is of Norwegian descent. Everybody has their favorite recipe and I guess some people do use pancake mix. I’ll have to find one good recipe again. They are good.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’d never heard that word before, however it is spelled. Post the recipe when you can. Could they be made in a metal muffin tin (of the small muffin variety)?

          • Anniel says:

            I’m afraid muffin pans would just make them – well muffins. You have to be able to turn them over and let the batter roll down over the filling. I wish I could have a party and feed everyone with aebelskivers and everyone could practice their Norwegian pronunciation, along with eating their fill. Hopefully we still have time to get more of the huge blueberries tomorrow. And I will find a good authentic Norwegian recipe.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We always have cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, though my pharmacist (for my periodic warfarin check-ups) advises not consuming cranberries much. We have a friend who likes cranberry juice (in large quantities) when he has kidney stone twinges.

    The other day I was invited to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. So I won’t be eating at the soup kitchen this year. 😉 And we were reminiscing about some of the good and bad foods of Thanksgiving Past in the family. #1 on the enemy list (at least for me) is candied beets, followed by cranberry sauces, stuffing (the kind with the big prunes my late grandmother would put in them, but otherwise I love a good stuffing), and the pièce de résistance: shredded carrots in green jello. I think I would prefer Aunt Edna’s jello from National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation in which she put hard cat food nibbles.

    The proper Thanksgiving food group is, in this order: Turkey (don’t do salmon substitutes or anything yuppie like that), mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, and a good quality roll. Pumpkin pie for dessert. Anything over and above this is proverbial gravy.

    And cranberry sauce is one of those extras I can do without. But many people love it.

    Oh, and the final ingredient (which I’m losing my taste for) is football. Now I’d just prefer to watch endless reruns of “A Christmas Story” or some other holiday movie. The NFL, much like the Republican Party, has lost me.

    Oddly, I found few, if any, huckleberries this year in the woods. I think it was the lack of rain that put the kibosh on them. But the blackberries (deeper roots?) were fine, but still a little iffy. It was not a good berry year here. It barely rained between May and September. And I’m talking about the red huckleberries. There’s a smaller blue huckleberry that I’ve seen people picking but had always thought was poisonous. But I guess not because I’ve eaten them since. But my favorite remains the big red ones.

    Also I love the salmonberries (don’t know what you call them up North to Alaska). And I didn’t see many of those this year either.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Your Thanksgiving tastes seem very similar to ours. Elizabeth generally does sweet potatoes or yams instead of mashed potatoes, and adds an oyster casserold (as well as the cranberry sauce). Unfortunately, stuffing mixes tend to be too high in sodium for me, but one can improvise reasonably well without them.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Oh…oh…oh…yes. How could I forget sweet potatoes? I absolutely hate them, but have to admit they are as American as the 4th of July. I’d love to try Elizabeth’s oyster casserole. I like freshly-barbecued oysters and even raw oysters, but am wary of anything else. But who knows? Nothing ventured nothing gained. I’ve never heard of an oyster casserole so that is something I’d definitely want to taste.

        My vegetarian niece makes a green bean casserole that has become a family tradition. It’s very good. And I would think a low-sodium stuffing would be a natural. I might even think about trying to make it myself and see what I can come up with for a healthy, low-sodium, low-fat stuffing.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Elizabeth also makes an oyster stew for Christmas breakfast.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Oh, goodness. Oysters for breakfast? And Christmas breakfast tuh-boot. In our family, we never did anything special for Xmas breakfast that I can recall. But why not? Still…oysters? Even for us in the Great Northwest, having oysters for breakfast would raise an eyebrow or two. I guess don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

            Now….a nice bowl of blueberries and cream. That would be the ticket.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I could even eat oatmeal with lots of blueberries and cream mixed in.

              • Rosalys says:

                The best way to eat oatmeal is to cook it with Craisins (or raisins for you cranberry haters,) and a dash of cinnamon. After cooking, top it with chopped walnuts and a big scoop or two of applesauce. Yum!

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Somehow this sounds Dickensian.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Rosalys, I can appreciate your berry good defense of the cranberry. And applesauce on the oatmeal sounds interesting. Walnuts…goes without saying. I buy a pre-packaged brand that usually includes them. I do one small package and mix with raw oats and then microwave. Then I add milk.

    But back to cranberries. I fear I have dissed the berry too harshly. I therefore will make amends with this brief ode:

    It’s red, very red
    A sour little sucker
    Add a spoonful of sugar
    To vanquish the pucker

    It’s red, very red
    I could make it my brand
    The day I find out
    Just what is a cran?

    • Rosalys says:

      Ha! You have come to the right place and I have the answer! Cranberry is a simplification of “craneberry”, so-called because the first Europeans to come to these North American shores, saw that the flowers resembled the head and neck of a crane. So a cran is really a crane.

      It is indeed red, very red, which, along with the fact that it is a very firm little berry, is why it is ideal for another traditional use – the making of Christmas tree garlands (with popcorn, of course!)

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