Well-intended / "The beauty of now"
Published 1:06 am, Friday, July 2, 2010
July is summer's heart. We've located the beach towels, replenished the sunscreen, there is sand in our sneakers and the sun sets well after supper. Evening calls for long walks and good friends. Fireflies dance and morning glories climb. Winter is but an impossible memory. Everything for which we seemed to have always been waiting is ripe.
One of my favorite summer activities is picking fruit. I like to think of myself as both industrious and hearty. But I'll admit; my meager garden will hardly make more than a few salads this summer. Though I've a surplus of mint. I've put my energy into other projects and have weeded less and planted meagerly. The strawberries were delicious, but never made it far out of the garden, our lips and fingers were stained with delicious juice before the gate closed behind us. And so, I'll rely on the true farmers to satisfy my desire to gather fruit.
We're blessed in Connecticut to have so many opportunities to pick our own fruit and vegetables. I love the website www.buyctgrown.com/inseason which shows both opportunities to pick your own food or just pick up locally grown produce and farm products near you. There are farmer's markets and farm stands all run by much more productive farmers than I will ever be.
I have a special fondness for picking blueberries. The summer I fell in love with the man I would marry, we drove past a hand painted sign one afternoon that read, "U Pick Blues." On a lonely Massachusetts highway I begged for him to turn around while we searched for that sign and then tried to follow its inaccurate arrow. The arrow led to another and another and several wrong turns and painted signs later we came upon a deserted orchard dotted with ripe blueberries. There was neither attendant nor basket to be seen. But we were there, triumphant and determined. We had a roll of architectural drawing paper in the back seat and made a cone of paper and pinned a twenty-dollar bill to the table. He looked skeptical. "They can't charge more than $20," I reasoned. That evening we filled the cone with blueberries and watched out for police. When you live life mostly by the rules, small transgressions are thrilling.
I have picked wild blueberries from low bushes in Maine and imagined the story Blueberries for Sal, in which the mother bear and human mother both so consumed in the pleasure of the hunt that they switch offspring. One hike in the Berkshires, late last summer, the children and I found blueberries, raspberries and blackberries all on one day. They have inherited my fondness for found fruit.
At the Trout Brook reserve at Aspetuck Land Trust, there are cultivated blueberries in the orchard. And rumor has it, they are ripe. You may pick two pints, or one paper cone's worth (if that's all you have). There are stains inside my straw hat from gathered berries last July.
Some summers, I make jam. Some, I bake tarts or freeze surplus berries for smoothies and pancakes in winter. Last summer, I dumped the berries in the bottom of bottles, sprinkled on some sugar and covered with (inexpensive) vodka. By Christmas (perhaps sooner; but I forgot to check) there was berry liquor and a giddy reminder that summer will always follow winter.