Tag Archives: Berry

Weekend sightings: snapping turtle, geese and — maybe — blackberries

Yesterday before the onslaught of rain arrived, the water in the creek near our house was still low enough to see whatever creatures were swimming. That’s when I saw a HUGE snapping turtle, his lumbering body swimming upstream. Of course, I had no camera, not even my iPod, but the body (not including the neck and head) was roughly the size of the horseshoe crab I found on Tybee Island earlier this summer.IMG_0514[1]

Later we went by to see if he might be hanging around but the creek was full of muddy, rushing water. We did see a cute little frog who appeared to be riding the rapids on his back.

Today, I was ready with my iPod. No turtle, but the geese that hang out at the local quarry seemed to tolerate my presence far longer than usual. One of them began a halfhearted attack but even he seemed to agree that a Sunday morning stalemate was called for. Phew. Hissing geese can be a little scary!
Leaving the geese to hiss at the next innocent passerby, I headed off to check on my blackberries. Here’s the thing. They’re not really mine and I’m not really sure if they’re blackberries. Are they black raspberries? I’m not sure…maybe someone out there can identify these for me. They grow wild on low-growing bramble bushes and are just slowly turning black.
Oddly, I’ve never like raspberries or blackberries until recently when I discovered some wild patches  on one of my running routes. I brought some of the raspberries home and my husband — who likes them — was hesitant to eat them. I think he thought I was trying to poison him.
Anyway, last year I decided to try the blackberries, which are huge and tart. I love to eat them off the bush — especially when I’m really thirsty on a hot, sweaty run.
So…who knows what these are? Please tell me!

Popsicles can’t compete with watermelon/cucumber/mint granita

Long ago and far away in the land known as “when the girls were little,” our kitchen table became the production area for some pretty interesting concoctions. This usually happened when we were in some sort of extended food preparation, such as freezing strawberry jam in large batches.

Here’s how I remember it…no doubt their version is different. To keep them occupied, I gave them blended berries and let them create away. They added salt, sugar, artificial sweetener, food coloring, and I’d rather not know what else. What I remember is that the final color was what they finally identified as “puce”. Fortunately, they didn’t expect anyone except their dolls and stuffed animals to participate in a taste test.

In the intervening years, the two of them have developed their own cooking skills and tastes. Once in awhile, they take over our kitchen while visiting.

So I wasn’t surprised the other day when I came home and discovered that part of a huge watermelon had disappeared from the fridge. Initially, I thought maybe the two of them had engaged in a backyard game of spitting seeds. But no….such was not the case.

Feeling sorry for her sister, who had cut the inside of her mouth in a car accident, daughter number 1 decided to concoct something cold, sort of an adult version of a popsicle.

What did she come up with? Watermelon sorbet, which she described as more of a granita or shaved ice, because it was “chippy” rather than smooth like a sorbet. Check out her photo, followed by the recipe.

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Spearmint Granita/Sorbet
3 cups water

1 cup sugar
Large bunch of fresh mint
3 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 cut peeled and seedless cucumber chunks
Stir the sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring a few times, just until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and steep 3 stems of mint. Leave to cool and then remove the mint stems.

Process the watermelon and cucumber chunks, 1/4 cup mint leaves, and the mint sugar syrup in a blender or food processor. It may be necessary to do this in smaller batches rather than all at once.

Strain the blended mix through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a bowl. Press/squeeze out as much pulp as possible. Discard the leftover pulp. Chill for a few hours in a glass or metal 9″ pan. Stir the icy mixture every hour until all is frozen – it will be chippy.
*I don’t know if an ice-cream maker would produce a smoother result, but it couldn’t hurt to try. 

Other potential flavors:
Cantaloupe and mint
Cantaloupe and basil
Lemon verbena and orange
Herbal (mints, lemon balm, etc.)
Mint (spearmint, peppermint, etc.)
Apple and maple syrup

Recipe from: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/Stir-It-Up/2012/0803/Watermelon-cucumber-and-mint-sorbet

The early bird gets the….blackberries!

One of my brothers lives in the mountains of Virginia where he regularly picks a variety of wild berries on his runs up the mountainside and into the woods.  This never really impressed me because I don’t like blackberries and raspberries so why bother picking them?

Or at least that was my perspective until I heard Hank Shaw talk about hunting, fishing, and foraging your own food. Shaw, the author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast”, offers advice to anyone interested in taking a more active role in determining what they feed themselves and their families.

Ironically, during a recent run I was listening to Shaw’s conversation on a Splendid Table podcast. A few minutes later, I stopped near a favorite rock to take a break. There, within an arm’s reach, grew a rambling bush of wild blackberries.

I grabbed a few, shoved them in my shorts pocket for my husband and decided to return later in the week to pick more. The next day, the destructive derecho windstorm swept through our part of Ohio, replacing those visions of blackberries with downed ancient trees, power lines, and a week of struggling back to normality.

But this morning — the Fourth of July — I loaded up my bike basket with containers and pedaled down to my rock and the blackberry bush — all the time wondering whether the winds had swept the berries into the nearby water. But no…there they were, looking as if they were just bursting with flavor.

This was not an easy task — one can’t just lift a branch to grab a bunch of berries unless one enjoys the pain of the thorny brambles. So it was careful picking. Worse, some of the best ones hung over the water, where I could just barely reach them by standing on the ancient flagstone overhang.

But hey, I felt a little like Euell Gibbons in “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”, returning home with a bowlful of berries. It was worth battling the thorny branches. And strangely, freshly picked blackberries actually taste pretty good. Might have to rethink my dislike of berries.

Did you know that long ago, people used blackberry bushes to magically cure  whooping cough? They’d pass the victim under the arching bramble seven times, reciting:

In bramble, out cough
Here I leave the whooping cough.