ONE OF MY FAVORITE times of the summer months is upon us. Blackberries are finally ready. I’m having luck finding them in the wild and have discovered my new favorite place to get the giant, thornless varieties at a pick-your-own place out in Raymond. The perimeter of some land where I hunt is providing some good, wild ones and the area around where I work is giving me small amounts.
One day last week I noticed some big, fat ones but I didn’t have time to get them so the next morning I came prepared with a bucket to get them but the birds or an opossum or something had munched out on them. They didn’t leave one for me. Oh well, first come first serve when you’re in the woods.
I ride the edges of the woods on my four-wheeler looking for any signs of them. The problem with those from the wild is that I have to step into other things that grow on the edges of woods such as poison ivy and things that are tall enough to tickle my ankles. While my eyes are beaded in on the berries my mind is wondering what the heck that is crawling up my leg. I’m always cautious of Mr. No Shoulders. I’m not always scared of snakes but when I can’t see where I’m putting my foot because I’m focusing on that one prize berry, I worry I might be pushing my luck.
After spending way to long getting not enough blackberries for a cobbler I decided to try out a U-Pick farm. First time I’ve tried that out. Pecan Hill Farms is in Raymond, about a 35 minute drive from Ridgeland and about five minutes from where I’ve been working at some greenhouses lately. When I got there at 9:30 there were about 20 cars in the parking lot. There was a very kind girl who was helping people get parked in a very clean, nice parking area. She was very informative and friendly as she explained how it works. She handed out a one gallon bucket with a handle on it. She said to fill that bucket up with either blackberries for $18 dollars or with blueberries for $10.
There was a really cool place to sit under with picnic benches where you could purchase cold water and restrooms were close by. I didn’t want to sit around because I could see there were people already picking in both the blueberry and blackberry areas. I’m guessing I saw maybe 15 or 20 really long rows of blackberries and probably twice that amount in rows of blueberries. Most people love blueberries and some people don’t like blackberries because the seeds get stuck in their teeth. That never bothered me, or I should say the good outweighs the bad. The spaces between the rows of berries were perfectly manicured, mowed to the point that I never had to wonder where my foot was going while reaching in for some black gold.
The helper told me that I should start on the last row and work my way back towards the main area. I guess she had been watching where the early birds had concentrated that morning. The early birds are the canning and jams ladies. They can pick a place clean pretty fast. It turns out the helper was right. There were plenty berries and in less than an hour I had filled my gallon bucket.
During that time more and more people were pulling up and there were two small daycare buses full of little children that were going to hit the blueberry rows. I know they were bound to have a blast filling up and spilling their buckets with berries.
The amazing thing is how many giant berries that weren’t yet ripe. They ripen really fast, as in there could be no blackberries left after a day of pickers coming out to glean the ripe ones and by the next day there will be enough for another days worth of people to get their fill. That is why they close at noon, to give the berries time to ripen and so the family of workers could do the maintenance it takes to keep a place wonderfully clean and neat.
Their schedule is really genius. They open from 7 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That gives the plants a few days to recoup. I would think that with the place being closed Sundays and Mondays that early on Tuesdays would be the prime day to show up. I was there on a Thursday late in the morning and still had enough to fill my bucket so they have it figured out, I doubt they are ever really low on blueberries.
MY BLUEBERRY BUSHES at home are constantly producing blueberries. Mimi and I will pick a sandwich baggie full every evening after work to freeze and there will be enough the next day for another baggie full. We try not miss many while the getting is good because we eat them every day throughout the year in our smoothies in the morning. We have two of the hybridized, thornless blackberries at home that are about two years old. They haven’t produced any berries yet although I saw some blooms on one of the plants this morning so my fingers are crossed.
After my experience at Pecan Hill I’m planning to add eight or 10 more plants. The berries are so much bigger and better than the wild ones and so much easier to pick. I never thought I’d say that because I’ve hunted and gathered blackberries all of my life but I have to admit that having some neat and clean rows to pick from is the dealo.
I think this farm has other seasonal things to pick like strawberries and maybe even peaches, I’m not sure. These folks are so friendly and eager to be helpful. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you all about it. A friend of mine turned me on to the place on Facebook where you can get all the info you need. Mississippi has many U-Pick places. I just tried this one and really enjoyed it and the three cobblers that came from my well spent time there. I’m sure if you Google it there are many worth investigating.
I have the simplest cobbler recipe that I’ve been using since I married Mimi. It came from a cookbook that was put together from the women of Benoit Union Church in the Delta where she attended church all her life.
Heat up a cast iron skillet with a stick of butter in it, mix together 1 cup of self rising flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of whole milk and a teaspoon of vanilla. Pour that mix onto the melted butter in the hot cast iron skillet then add 3 cups of berries distributed evenly throughout. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. It’s that simple. Then top it of with ice cream or yogurt or whatever your thing is. That spells summer in Mississippi to me.