Wednesday, July 13, 2016

IT'S SASKATOON BERRY TIME!


            To some, this is a pretty exciting time of the year. They’ve waited and waited and waited and they have scouted out all of the good spots and now it’s time to gather up the pails, the bug spray, the picnic baskets, the iced tea, (or beverage of choice), and head for the bushes…the Saskatoon bushes, that is.
Yup, it’s berry picking time again and I’m so excited for all you berry pickers. Be careful and have fun out there. You know, I’d sure like to join you but I’ve got this sore toe. You go ahead…knock yourselves out.
Like so many things it really depends on how you were raised, I suppose. Take my wife for instance. Her family made berry picking a whole day family outing. Not just one small family, either, many family members would gather and travel to the best berry bushes they knew of and they would pick and play and picnic and have loads of fun. They would even make picking through the full pails of berries and washing them up after they got home loads of fun, if you can imagine.
Mind you, Debbie and her siblings sometimes accompanied their grandmothers in to the pastures and surrounding fields of the family farm picking various wild fruits and flowers and making it a great bonding and learning experience. An enjoyable experience, if you will.
My recollections of the berry picking experience were a little different. My Mom packed a lunch and cool beverages and she tried to make it fun for everyone, too, but ten-year-old wired up boys are not the best people to take to the berry patch. I was bored to near-death in about three-and-a-half minutes and I was more than happy to share that information with anyone…a lot. The constant bizzzz, bizzzz, bizzzz, of the mosquitoes, horseflies and black flies combined with the oppressive heat and the clock moving backwards only reinforced in me that berry picking is barely this side of torture. You know what my behaviour got me, though, don’t you? That’s right. It got me the first available ticket to every berry picking tour we ever went on again. Snivel and whine all you want but you’re coming along!!
Now, with today’s U-Pick-Em orchard farms the all-day picnic-type events are fewer and far between. In fact, for a miniscule fee the U-Pick-Ems will even pick ‘em for you so all of that tortuous labour has been removed. How nice is that? Delicious berries without the purple fingers or the odd worm in your mouth or the boredom or the mosquito bites or the sunstroke…
If you’re interested, I know that Tom and Maxine Sugden have a U-Pick ‘Em farm right on the western outskirts of Kipling and Drew and Pat Balfour also have an orchard off of the 711 grid near #9 highway. To name a couple.
No matter how the little purple berries end up in your fridge, freezer or pie they are just about the tastiest wild berry there is, don’t you think? The plant we call the Saskatoon is an Amelanchier alnifolia, and it’s native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States.
There are so many things to like about a Saskatchewan July but the unique tastes provided us through the various products produced from somebody’s Saskatoon berry picking labour are a welcome reminder of so many summers past.
“I like to do things quickly because I’m easily bored.” Karl Lagerfeld (1933-).

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