Into the Patch we go


Bare toes (although painted in a fabulous color) in the green grass.

Sand in between those toes. And in every other place.



No work.



Time to breathe.

Breathe it in.

One of our rituals of summer is berry picking. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. If there is a berry around, we will be picking it. Summer doesn’t quite seem complete without a trip to some patch at some point. In my berry-loving opinion.

See, it’s in my 42-year old bones. My grandfather, who I completely adored, had raspberry bushes in his yard. I had the pleasure as a child of not living terribly far from my grandparents, so we visited pretty frequently. He had a great garden….flowers along one side and in the back, tomatoes along the other side of the house, perfect giant bushes in the front of the house which made a great clubhouse (of sorts) and huge raspberry bushes, which were dotted at various places. I remember thinking as a kid that this was a great yard. Add to that, there was a big ol’ dark green hammock smack in the middle of all of it…perfect. Loll on top of the hammock and then when it got too hot, throw some sheets over the sides and (another) instant clubhouse underneath.

These raspberry bushes. These fabulous masses of green with little prickers here and there but plump, red fruits *berried* within. The trick is lifting the leaves. The best ones are under there.

My grandpa would outfit each of The Cousins (there were 5 of us, all girls) with a coffee can. Hills Brothers was his caffeinated drink of choice back then (he’d probably have a heart attack on the spot if I took him into a Starbucks now, with their prices) and since he was ahead of his time in the recycling arena (back then they just called it “not wasting things”), these empty coffee cans found second lives in all sorts of ways around the house. One of the best reincarnations was the Raspberry Can. Take your empty can, poke two holes in the sides with some metal, pokey thing from the workbench, loop some twine through, tie the ends and wah-ha! Hang it around the neck of a child and they can pick raspberries and not have to hold anything but the berries. Brilliant.

And this was just another one of those things from childhood that probably should have injured us at some point but didn’t. Strings around necks of small children? Sounds like a disaster in the making, but oddly enough it never was. Along with the seatbelts that none of us wore, the sunscreen that we never put on and sticks that never really ended up poking our eyes out. The coffee can thing cracks me up now when I think of it because they don’t even make sweatshirt hoods with strings anymore.

So, we threw caution that we didn’t know we should exercise to the wind, looped those coffee cans around our little necks and headed into the raspberry bushes. Yes, we headed into them. Sure, there was some picking on the perifery, but the bushes were just so, well, BUSHY, that we could walk clear into them. That’s where all the good berries were. If you were up for braving some of the prickly stalks then you were aptly rewarded.

I can still see, clear as day, my little can filled to the brim with the plumpest, tartest-yet-sweetest berries around. AND, I might add, they were organic, she says with a laugh. My grandpa was SO ahead of the times. Recycling and organic produce. Glad I hung out with that man-he taught me much!

So here…a good berry recipe. Blueberries and raspberries are not ready in the patches yet but with the way time flies, they will be shortly. Your fingers will be stained with the most beautiful shades of reds and pinks and blues soon.

Berry Coffee Cake, from Eating Well Dessert Cookbook

For the cake:
1 large egg
1/2  cup skim milk
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 Tb. canola oil
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 cups blueberries, raspberries or cranberries

For the topping:
3 Tb. sugar
2 Tb. finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil an 8 x 8 square baking dish. In large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, yogurt and oil. Set a sieve on top of bowl and measure flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into it. Stir the dry ingredients together while sifting them into the liquid mixture. Stir batter just to blend. Do not overmix. Fold in berries gently. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

In small bowl, stir together sugar, walnuts and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in wire rack for about 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.


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