Well, if you've ever hiked around the Pacific Northwest, you have probably encountered the ubiquitous Himalayan Blackberry. Imported from Asia back in the 1800's as a food crop, this invasive species has escaped the cultivated fields of Oregon and had proliferated from California to Alaska. Luckily, they are super delicious, albeit a little seedy.
Since blackberries grow practically everywhere, it's easy to pick a lot of them. The biggest issue is since they are noxious weeds, it's important to find spots that haven't been sprayed with herbicide! We've tried picking along the Springwater Corridor and up on Mt. Tabor, but three years ago, we stumbled upon this field by Powell Butte that has acres of prickly vines crowded with juicy berries.
Our family eats a lot of jam. We put it on pancakes, on waffles, on buttered toast, in yogurt, use it to make smoothies, and of course as the main ingredient in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even so, it's been several years since we've needed to buy a jar of jam from the grocery store. Our homemade jams are so much better, and with this many berries just hanging around, why buy?
Piles of thorny bushes sprawl through the field. Sleeping Beauty is trapped in there somewhere, and each summer we come armed with pruning shears and clippers to rescue her. Each summer we return with gallons of sweet, ripe blackberries. This year when we made it to the berry field, it was around 100 degrees. Cicadas were whirring in the grass, and their sound combined with the heat and the smell of honey/blackberry to create a dreamlike atmosphere. It's amazing how much ripe blackberries smell like honey.
If you've ever read "Dandelion Wine," by Raymond Bradbury, you might remember how each batch captures the particular vintage of that summer, and how everything that happened that summer adds depth to the flavor. Homemade jam is like that, too. Somehow -- especially in Winter, the taste can recall events from a warmer, brighter time.
Sometime, we'll do a Recipe Friday to show how we make use of any uneaten jam from last year. Waste not, want not!