Leave it to me to find food wherever I go.
That’s the thought that ran through my mind as I was playing with Kat in the golden shallows of Lake Winnipesaukee at my in-laws’ home in rural New Hampshire.
No, I hadn’t seen a fish and thought it. Well, we had seen fish–minnows which were too small to be eaten, but that’s beside the point. No, what had inspired the thought was the lovely dusky blue that caught my eye as I raised my head to brush hair from my eyes after being splashed by a well-aimed kick from my daughter.
I blinked and my eyes focused and I was staring right at a cluster of real, live blueberries that were growing on a large, pretty shrub that has been growing on the shore of the lake that was home to the dock where Zak’s parents’ boat was moored. I tipped my head to one side, noted the shape of the leaves (ovoid and shiny dark green) and the pretty little white bell-shaped flowers and then glanced up and down the shore.
The entirety of the shoreline that bordered the Kramers’ property was lined with these shrubs, some low and bushy, and others tall and tree-like. And as I paced up and down the shoreline, holding Kat’s tiny hand in my own, I noted that each of those bushes showed not only blossoms, but berries in various stages of ripeness, all of them smaller than domesticated blueberries, and all of the ripe ones most certainly a beautiful shade of indigo frosted with slate.
Squealing with joy, I picked the ripe ones I saw, popped one in my mouth and realized that all of those food writers who had declared that the wild blueberries of New England were superior in flavor to their larger, sometimes prettier domesticated cousins were right. These wee blue morsels were delicious–like little flavor bombs. Juicy and sweet and tart all at one time, the wild blueberries were an unexpected treasure.
Kat loved them enough that her greedy fingers threatened to clean out the entire handful I had found and picked, but I guarded some in a lightly held fist and hauled the two of us out of the water and we ran across the yard, calling out to my in-laws gleefully, “Wild blueberries! Did you know that you have wild blueberries?”
Of course they didn’t know.
They hadn’t noticed anything fruitful in the least about those bushes and in fact had been cutting them back in order to provide more access to the clear dancing waters of the lake.
I couldn’t say much, because I hadn’t realized they were blueberries either, though I had never visited the area during the fruiting or flowering seasons when the bushes looked like something other than pretty branches with shiny ovoid dark green leaves on them. (In other words, like generic shrubbery.)
But there is something to be said about being observant of the environment–and taking note of what plants grow wild right at your doorstep or around the corner or in your yard. My father in law, Karl, knew he had wild blackberries growing among the boulders that bordered his yard, but noted that the deer usually got the berries before he did. I pointed out that the easiest way to harvest the berries from the blueberry bushes was by wading in the water and most deer will not do that. The only competition he was likely to have for harvesting his wild treasures was from the birds–and if he wanted to, a bit of bird netting would foil them.
My yard is ringed by wild blackberries, young pawpaw trees and there is a mulberry tree at the end of our driveway. I could harvest these fruits, but the truth is, I let the birds and raccoons have the fruit. Blackberries I can buy from the local farmers, pawpaws generally give me indigestion and mulberries don’t have enough flavor to make them worth my while, even though they are pretty fruits. In these cases, it just makes sense to let the birds have the harvest.
But if I had wild blueberries–yeah, you bet Id’ pick and eat them! They really are superior in every way to the ones that are grown here in Ohio–and that’s saying a lot because I love blueberries.
So what is the point of this short post, other than to announce we are home from vacation?
The point is this. Keep your eyes open–because you never know where or when you will find an edible treasure growing right under your nose.
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