With the arrival of summer, I often think longingly back on the days when I was growing up and the excitement of being out of school for a few months. Living out in the country, there were always plenty of things to do and places to explore. One of the things I remember most about childhood summers, though, is blackberries.
Behind our house was a pasture, and on the fence separating the pasture from the back yard, blackberry vines grew thick and thorny. From the time the first tiny white flowers appeared, I watched the fruit turn from tiny green nodules to red, and finally to deep, blue-black clusters the size of cherry tomatoes.
When the berries were ripe, my grandmother would hand me a plastic bowl and together we would gently fill it with the sun-warmed fruit. She would make sure I watched out for thorns, black snakes and chiggers—three of the hazards of picking blackberries. Our blackberry “orchard” wasn’t a large one, and it would take several afternoons of harvesting before she would declare we had enough for her to make a few pints of blackberry juice.
While a lot of grandmothers might have made blackberry cobblers or blackberry jelly (and mine did many times through the years), my grandmother’s first priority was to preserve a few jars of blackberry juice. She always prescribed it whenever my mother, father or I had a stomachache. And drinking a small amount of it always made us feel better, if for no other reason than the sweet taste of summer and sunshine it provided all year long.