Tuesday 28 March 2017

Time for blackberry treats

Sir -- Where have all the blackberry pickers gone? Especially this year, with a bumper harvest waiting to be appreciated. Oh, how I look forward to this season of the year. Fifty years ago, while lying in hospital and viewing the fields in the distance, I asked the good Lord to give me the pleasure once again of picking the free health food of the countryside. Yes, my wish was granted, and now at 90 years of age, while the farmer cuts his corn, I am happily picking my winter store of blackberries as I have done from childhood.

People would be surprised to learn that in the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, the blackberry was, in a way, an economic blessing, for the money earned helped to provide the children's winter footwear. Mother and children did the picking. Buyers were in most towns and villages and barrels were left with families to facilitate storage. The standard price was 2/6 a stone, and one local buyer I knew exported over 300 tons annually. What was the tonnage for the whole of Co Wexford? Or, more intriguing still, what was the tonnage for the whole country?

One of my happy memories of a blackberry harvest was 30 years ago while staying with my son in the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen in the hills around Lough Hine and came across an abundance of huge delicious blackberries. Feeling troubled at seeing such waste, we secured buckets from the hotel's proprietor and set to work. The next evening his diners were pleased to discover among the dessert menu the famous blackberry pie, which won the overwhelming acclaim of the dining room.

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