Thursday, August 6, 2009

Just When I Think I've Got Them All...

Blackberries in their prime

I've been picking fresh berries of one sort or another on a daily basis since late May/early June, starting with strawberries. Following closely on the heals of the strawberries were the red and black raspberries, and before they were finished, the blueberries began ripening. The blueberries are still going strong, and now the blackberries are producing in full swing.

A typical breakfast for me consists mainly of fruit (berries!), yogurt and walnuts

What can I say? I love berries. I love picking them every morning for my breakfast of berries/fresh yogurt/walnuts. I'm considering a vegan lifestyle, but I'm not sure I could give up my yogurt...

Toodie, my blue merle Australian Shepherd posing as "Blueberry Muffin" in the blueberry bushes

Anyway, I have lots of help when it comes to picking the berries. Toodie (Australian Shepherd) runs to the blueberry bushes when I ask her if she wants to help Mom pick blueberries. She hovers beneath the bushes, waiting for a handout, or methodically eating the fallen blueberries that she's able to find. Tristan, on the other hand, swaggers out to the blueberry bushes and stands beneath them, eating the berries straight off the bushes like a black bear. Naughty dog! I wonder how many quarts he's eaten this year?

I've learned to be careful when picking blueberries...careful not to pick them before they're entirely ripe. If there's a hint of purple/pink on them, they'll not be nearly as sweet as if they're nearly black, or at least a deep, dark blue.

The amazing new wonder plant that (1) produces beautiful imaptiens flowers, (2) blueberries, and (3) small amounts of silk in the blossom-end of the blueberry!!

I've also learned to examine each berry for impurities, mainly of the bug variety. Some have tiny holes in them, and inside will be a nice juicy worm. Or, the blossom end of the berry will sport a web of looks like it's been stuffed with cotton. I'm not sure what lurks beneath that, but I sure don't want to eat it!

Close-up of the web in the blossom-end of the blueberry. Placed in an impatiens flower for lack of a better background.

The blackberries are in their prime at the moment. Again, I've learned to not pick them before their time. It's tempting to pick anything that appears black, but I've learned to not pick them until (1) they simply fall off the canes with the slightest touch, (2) they're soft and squishy, not firm, and (3) they're entirely black with not the least bit of red showing. The best way to determine this is to view them in bright sunlight, preferably slightly backlit. If you should happen to put them in the freezer, the slightly under ripe ones will turn red, while the black ones remain black.

Blackberries in different stages of, pink, red, mostly black, and black

And it never ceases to amaze me how, when I'm picking berries, I think I've got them all, then I'll stoop down or move a bit and look at the patch from a different angle and see dozens that I've missed. Sneaky guys.

And Just Who Did Patty Frolic With Last Year?!

The Squash Thing

Last year the garden just went to pot after I suspected I had lymphoma in September, then had it confirmed in October. Things just didn't get cleaned up and I left a lot of debris lying about the place.

One of the garden leavings was a squash plant, an open pollinated, heirloom "patty pan" squash. I've got two nice, robust squash plants growing in the bed where last year's patty pan grew. Lots of tomatoes were also left, and as a result I'm happy to have a plethora of tomato plants springing up all over the place and producing nicely. And there's the occasional volunteer potato here and there; I just can't bring myself to rip any of these out of the garden when they show up, so obviously wanting to live and be productive members of society.

The other day I had a hankerin' for some fresh squash, so went to check on the "patty pan" since I'd seen blossoms there for quite some time. I spied one infant squash...but wait! That's no patty pan! It's round. How'd that happen? I just couldn't figure out what the squash had crossed with last year as I'd had no other squash, or even cucumbers in the garden. Then I remembered I DID have a muskmelon (cantaloup)...but I've recently been informed that patty pan squash and melons can't cross, so I guess that's not a possibility. Perhaps a nearby (as in 1/2 mile away being the nearest) garden holds the culprit of Patty's cross pollination?

So, I'm watching the bastard child of Patty and Whatever and am wondering what it will be like when it's ripe. And for that matter, how will I know when it's ripe? Do I cook it, or eat it raw?

Next door to this Squash Thing a cucumber plant has been in bloom, and already I'm wondering what's been going on when no one's looking...