July was blackberry picking month at my granny’s farm. Our routine was this: long-sleeve shirt, jeans, loose socks, boots, hat, then a dousing of bug repellant. NO UNDERWEAR OR BRA, OR EVEN TIGHT SOCKS! (Chiggers crawl on your person until they can’t go any futher, like an underwear legband or a bra strap. Then they bite.) We’d pick gallons of berries for preserves, jam, freezing and eating fresh with cream.
In England, blackberries also grow wild, but are very well-behaved. The species has fewer thorns, and the canes grow individually, rather than in dense hedges. In a lightly trafficked lane near our house was a nice clump of canes that provided enough berries for topping ice cream or cereal. With friends Nettie and Poppy, we’d range further afield for bigger harvests. Delightfully free of mosquitos and chiggers, too.
Nettie insisted with soak our harvested berries in lightly salted water, which I hadn’t heard of. And when we did, ohmidog: the bugs–not just a few–jumped and floated to the top of the water, where they were easy to skim off.
How many times had I gleefully downed handfuls wild berries? And how many bugs had I unknowingly eaten? Uncountable, that’s how many.
So now I soak wild berries in water to cover with a teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes. I recommend it.