Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blackberry Fingers

Typing with purple-stained fingers. Blackberries today. Wild blackberries. No other fruit in my experience requires such attention in harvest, not even morels. Most plants either/or: if they're there, they're ready to be taken and eaten. Blackberries however are about extremely fine gradation. Discernment is called for, even as the line between unripe and overripe is crossed in the span of an afternoon. With other berries, a little over or under doesn't much matter; it's a spectrum of more or less sweetness. Blackberries, however, are unappealing most of the time: sour even on the very verge of ripeness, then soft and leaky when they pass peak. When perfectly, oh-so-briefly ripe, however, they are sublime. Far better than any other berry. Not merely sweet, they express flavors as exquisite and complex as those of any fine wine. Today i had several blackberries whose taste I swear hinted of tobacco and coriander. Dazzling.

You can tell the pick-me-now, just-ripe blackberry a little bit by looking -- the color does not vary, but unripe berries have a showy shine, and overripe ones are dull-looking. The ones you want to go after look satiny, luminous. The only way to truly judge, however, is by feel. A sort of gentle simultaneous roll and pull between questing fingertips. Unripe berries don't budge, and overripe ones collapse. Ripe blackberries yield themselves, generously, voluptuously. Human touch seems exquisitely calibrated to discern the moment for plucking a blackberry at peak perfection.

I pick berries by feel, and I take only the ones that want to come. I leave the not-quite-ripe behind, even if I know I won't be coming back.

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