There are folks who are just annoying. They seem to always be present, and loud, and in your way, clingy and hard to escape. They do exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time, and can’t help but be unhelpful. They make it hard to get work done, and hinder your friends. They are not necessarily evil, indeed, their actions are not personal at all. It’s just that they are a pain through and through.
Imagine such a person, a total jerk 364 days of the year. Then one day, that person drops a really lovely, absolutely exquisite gift on you: a gift that is much appreciated, that makes your life better for a long time, and actually improves your social standing.
This week’s flora is the vegetal embodiment of that person—the Himalayan Blackberry, aka the Armenian Blackberry, aka Rubus armeniacus aka Rubus discolor. We are at war with this plant; when we purchased this place, it had a blackberry problem that was visible from space, or at least on Google maps. We have been mowing it and siccing our goats on it and spraying it ever since, and we will be continuing to do so for as long as we are here.
However, once a year, the plants are less odious. For a few days, even in a droughty year such as this, they are covered with shiny black, plump berries. They are luscious, inviting, compelling, tart, and other adjectives one might apply to something suggesting moral laxity. So, one goes out with a bucket and a sun hat and shears and starts gathering berries, one for me, one for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket…until one has enough to make some jam or sorbet or pie. Brother M happened to be here with his sweetie for a day, and they came, picked, jammed, and left. I spent an afternoon last week doing the same.
For the record, an hour and a half of picking converts to five liters of berries, which converts to two and a half liters of juice and six hundred grams of seeds and pulp. Add pectin and eleven cups of sugar (interestingly, blackberry seeds sink in blackberry juice, but the addition of sugar increases the specific gravity enough that the seeds will float), cook and can, and you’ll end up with just shy of four liters of jam.
So, now we have a lot of jam, and it is delicious. It is a universally fungible as a bribe or lagniappe. It will be bringing a dose of summer’s sunshine and warmth to a chilly, rainy March.