Outdoors Column: Eating Off The Land

When we talk about living off the land, it is usually in reference to stocking up meat for the winter by hunting deer, turkey, and ducks. During the summer, there are not many seasons open, but there is still food to be harvested.


Saturday, our grandson, Zane stopped by and told us the blackberries were ripe. Blackberries are very similar to black raspberries but get ripe about two to three weeks after the raspberries. Depending the amount of rain we have when they are maturing, they can be very seedy, and somewhat bitter, or juicy and delicious. This year, we had just the right amount of rain. As well as having a prolific production, they are plump, juicy, and taste wonderful.


The temperature and humidity were both near 100 when Zane suggested we go pick berries. Unfortunately, I was busy, but my wife said she would go with him. I really hated to miss the opportunity to spend time in the sweltering heat, getting attacked by chiggers and ticks while getting scratched up by the blackberry brambles, but I had things I had to do. My wife locked up the dogs so they would not get a heat stroke from following along and she and Zane headed out on the Ranger.


Patches of blackberries grow in various places around the farm, usually the edge of timber. The seeds are planted by the birds sitting in the overhanging branches and sprout where the competition for sunlight is less than in the heavy timber. The berries were plentiful, and the pair went from one location to another. When I got back from my errand, an hour later, they were still not back. I immediately became concerned. I thought if the Ranger quit running a mile away from home, they would have a long hot walk home. As far as I knew, they did not take anything to drink with them. I immediately sent a text to Zane, inquiring about their success and location. I did not want them to think I was back at the house having a panic attack while they were leisurely driving around picking berries. A message came back that they were on their way back.


I was relieved to see them pull up to the house, and each had a bottle of water. They only had a moderate amount of blood on their arms and legs from scratches and each had several bug bites. They also each had a bag full of blackberries.


The three of us promptly started turning their blackberries into turnovers. Zane and I cleaned and cooked the berries while my wife made the crust. With the precision of a well-organized assembly line, it took no time to have individual small blackberry pies. We were all impatient, waiting for them to bake and then waiting some more for them to cool enough to eat. If we had only thought, putting ice cream on top would have speeded up the cooling process. Even without the ice cream, the turnovers were delicious.


When it comes to eating off the land, during the fall and winter, we can stock up on meats for the main course of our meals, but summer is the time to stock up foods for the dessert course.