I’m not at all confident in my wild edible-identification skills. Unlike Wren at Berheim, who I would want on my team in a post-apocalyptic world (learn more about her in this month’s issue of Kentucky Monthly), I can only safely ID a couple foods in their natural environment – morels, and blackberries.
Morel season, sadly, is over, as is blackberry, but on a rafting and camping trip last month in Oregon, I got to take advantage of their later seasons, and pluck blackberries every day. Staining my fingers and teeth was not a problem, since I hadn’t packed a mirror on the trip. At every campsite I’d station myself in front of a tangle of bushes and navigate the thorns to pick the inky purple berries, popping them one at a time into my mouth. Others were patient enough to collect handfuls before retreating to a shady spot along the Rogue River to enjoy their treats, but I was just as happy with my pick-and-eat method.
Returning home I missed my daily forage for blackberries, and started reminiscing about the most memorable dinner of my childhood. I was about seven, and I spent the afternoon with my mom and some cousins picking wild blackberries. I can’t imagine how they convinced me to put my berries in the bucket instead of in my hungry little mouth, but somehow they did. Late in the afternoon we returned home with what seemed like gallons of the berries. My mom made blackberry dumplings for dinner, served with vanilla ice cream. Thirty years later I remember the bliss of that ice cream melting into the warm berries, the puddle of ice cream tinged purple. I ate a vast bowlful of this goodness, and have thought of it many times since.
With the oddness of the seasons this year, I couldn’t remember when I returned from my trip if we’d had blackberry season or not. To my dismay, I learned it was long over. But to my delight, my mom informed me she still had a batch in her freezer. And if I’d visit over my birthday weekend, she would make me a cobbler. I readily agreed, with one stipulation. It had to be served with vanilla ice cream.
She didn’t have a lot of berries put away, so she made me a personal cobbler. I guarded it jealously, insisting everyone else eat the peach cobbler she’d also made. I may be a lot older now, and have plenty of other things that bring me joy, but it turns out that a warm blackberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream is still one of the happiest things in the world.