I like to think of summer berries as the jewels of a garden: the blueberry is like a purple pearl, harvested in clusters; redcurrants catch and filter the light like rubies; raspberries are like magnificent garnets. And strawberries? They are the diamonds of summer. If you follow the seasons, the strawberry arrives first, although you would never know this simply by shopping the supermarket aisles. The weight of a winter’s harvest – sturdy swedes, cumbersome pumpkin and the inevitable potato – give way to lighter treasures that go with lying in long grass, cloud watching, picnics and summer towels billowing like sails on a verandah.
Instead of a job for itinerants, picking fruit should be on the school curriculum. It is another one of life’s simple pleasures: to pass the day in the angle of the sun’s rays; to learn when nature’s gems are ripe for picking; and to know that tasting fruit as it naturally tastes cannot be replicated by science.
Those two wild strawberry plants I bought from Salamanca Market in Hobart four years ago are now 50, self-seeded without much care from me. Their delicate white flowers are as pretty as their fruit and it is all I can do to stop myself from cutting off a few stems before they turn into berries. Now that the strawberry farm is open again in Hillwood, I’ll fossick with the families on bended knee for my daily platter. Then, when the wild blackberries come into their own, I know I’ll be one of the foragers staking out their bush on the roadside, worthy of at least a bucket at the end of an idle hour.
Published in Country Style, December 2013