For me, the start of July is synonymous with berry-picking season. As June draws to a close, my family dusts off tin pails and Tupperware containers in anticipation of the first ripe blackberries and raspberries. Wherever I’ve lived, a wild berry patch hasn’t been far off. Much like the foxes, deer, mice, and birds that eat them, berry plants thrive in thickets, those tangles of vines and shrubs that border fields and forests.
My children love to pick (and eat) wild raspberries and blackberries, often needing to be coaxed from particularly brambly patches. Before embarking on a berry-picking adventure, we dress them in long pants and apply bug spray. Scratches and tick checks are a small price to pay for the thrill of the hunt, not to mention the promise of berry pies, shortcakes, muffins, and other berry treats.
Summer isn’t complete without reading the classic children’s book Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey, in which the youngsters of a human mother and a mother bear inadvertently get switched while picking berries. My family loves the illustrations, particularly of Sal’s mother canning mountains of blueberries. Thank goodness for freezers!
Summer campers at Adkins Arboretum’s nature camps enjoy grazing for berries along meadow paths. I always have campers check with me before munching: some meadow berries aren’t edible and may be dangerous. While berry picking is fun anywhere, anytime, I prefer to pick in the cooler evening hours.
From fireflies to fresh corn, summer has many delights. And as with fireflies and fresh corn, the season for berry-picking is never long enough, lasting only a few short weeks. So dust off those pails, head outside, and take your children to the nearest thicket. Few memories will be sweeter.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator