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Berried treasure.

Celebrating berry harvesting is a uniquely rural American tradition, and it can be a berry delicious time.

Seasonally, amid the countryside's deepening hues, a litany of berries, drupes and pomes colorfully take their cue--blueberries, blackberries, buffalo berries, chokecherries, currants, cranberries, dewberries, elderberries, huckleberries, wild grapes, raspberries, strawberries, thimbleberries and more.

Across America, small towns host festivals honoring berries--folks in Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin celebrate blueberries; strawberry festivals are held in Maine, Texas and California; huckleberry revelry happens in north Idaho and northwest Montana; blackberry events take place from West Virginia to Bremerton, Wash.; red raspberries are center stage at Bear Lake, Utah; parades are held for cranberries in Warren, Wis.; and an annual cranberry festival at Plymouth, Mass., honors the first Thanksgiving.

Pickers search farm woodlots and brushy tangles, abandoned fields and along mountain paths. Still others are drawn to the cultivated settings of local u-pick farms.

Nowadays, too, one can do berry picking within supermarkets. Like many modem conveniences though, there are hidden costs. Most domestically grown berries are bland compared to their wild brethren, not to mention their high prices and missing out on pleasant time spent outdoors. For those who prefer their berries already gathered, store-bought varieties provide comparable nutritional and health benefits as wild fruit.

Berries mostly fit the colorful red-purple food category in eat-by-color diets, where color is considered a key indicator of good nutrition--the more color the better.

The fruit colors are due to photochemicals, such as anthocyanin (Greek, meaning dark blue) pigments. Dark-colored berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, currants, huckleberries and serviceberries, contain high levels of antioxidants, a group of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help protect the body from free radicals, which can cause damage to cells.

Research has shown that the antioxidants found in berries can help combat cancer, tumor growth, heart disease, urinary tract infection, aging in general, and short-term memory loss associated with aging. They also improve immune system functioning. Additionally, according to Katie Letcher Lyle, author of "The Berry Book," some species of Vaccinium (blueberries and huckleberries) also contain anthocyaocides, which have been proven effective in increasing night vision, preventing cataracts and as an anti-inflammatory.


Before you get the impression that only black, blue and purple fruits have a lock on nature's medicinal and nutritional warehouse, consider red raspberries, which are low in calories (about 50 per cup) and high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Or take rose hips, the lustrous orange-red fruits of wild rose commonly found along farm fence rows. During World War II, Britain's shipping was devastated and fresh citrus was unobtainable. When children began to show signs of scurvy caused by a shortage of vitamin C, botanically minded Brits searched the countryside for plants that might provide a solution. They made one of the greatest nutritional discoveries of our time. Flourishing in hedgerows, they found the fruit of wild roses, which yielded 10 to 100 times more vitamin C by weight than any other known source. Rose hips also contain vitamins A, E, B1, B2, niacin, K and P.

However, not all tempting beauty is sweetness. Some wild berries or berrylike fruits are not edible, even though, like poison ivy and Virginia creeper berries, they may be avidly consumed by wildlife. One must be able to distinguish between fruits that are edible, and those that are not, to safely partake.

For example, despite the cheerful red and white fruits of dogbane, ingestion of a single berry reportedly can cause severe problems, a half dozen could prove fatal. Likewise, for deadly nightshade's "pea-sized tomatoes," which are common around barnyards and farmland.

While berry lore is frequently passed from generation to generation, today there is also a wealth of regional guidebooks available to assist the neophyte berry picker, including Lyle's book and "Wild Berries of the West," by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller.

Berry picking is an activity that appeals to our ingrained hunter-gatherer instincts and traditions tracing back to earlier time. While it's no longer necessary to spend weeks storing up winter provisions, it is still an activity that can be traditionally enjoyed by the entire family.
Pattie's Cranberry-Apple Sauce

A snap to fix and infinitely better than any
canned cranberry sauce. If you don't have access
to a wild cranberry bog and fresh farm apples,
substitute fresh cranberries and tart apples from
the store.

2 cups wild cranberries
1/2 cup orange OR apple juice,
  OR 1 cup water
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and
  cut into chunks
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar OR honey, to taste
1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
OR pecans

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer
until cranberries pop and apples are tender,
about 10 minutes. Chill until very cold. Add
walnuts after sauce has chilled.

Patties Blueberry Custard Pie

My wife, Pattie, likes to toast almonds and add
crushed almonds, wheat germ and cinnamon to
her pie crust. The top crust is glazed with a little
milk and butter and sprinkled with cinnamon

3 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups (or less) sugar OR use brown
  sugar and honey to taste
1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch ginger
pinch cinnamon
4 cups blueberries OR huckleberries
1 deep-dish, double crust, unbaked
1 tablespoon butter

Heat oven to 400[degrees]F.

Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, flour and
spices. Add berries. Pour into deep dish crust.
Dot with butter. Cover with top crust and sprinkle
with a bit of extra sugar. Bake for 50 to 60
minutes. Cool before serving.

Pattie's Cranberry-Apple
Harvest Pie

2 cups cranberries
4 cups cored, peeled tart
  apples, cut into thin
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  double crust for a
  9-inch deep-dish pie
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon
  juice OR 1/2 teaspoon
  grated orange
  OR lemon peel

Heat oven to 450[degrees]F. Place bottom
crust in deep-dish pie plate; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cranberries
and apple pieces. Stir together
brown sugar, salt, cornstarch, cinnamon
and nutmeg; sift mixture over fruit. Stir
fruit gently until well-coated.

Place mixture into pie shell. Dot with butter
and sprinkle with lemon juice. Cover pie with
pricked upper crust. Brush with milk and lightly
sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature
to 350 degrees. Bake until done, about
45 to 60 minutes.

Note: This pie can be prepared without the
top crust.

Patties Wild Blueberry
Farm Apple Crisp


5 cups blueberries OR huckleberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon OR
  orange peel
1 cup diced tart apples

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped hickory nuts, walnuts
  OR pecans
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons softened butter

Heat oven to 350[degrees]F. Butter an 8-by-8-inch
baking dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine blueberries, sugar,
lemon peel and apples. Mix well and place in
prepared dish.

In another bowl, combine brown sugar,
spices, flour, nuts and oats. Rub in butter with
fingers until mixture becomes coarse crumbs.

Spread sugar mixture evenly over filling. Bake
for 45 minutes, or until crust is browned. Serve
warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Rose Hip Tea

2 to 3 cups cleaned rose hips
3 to 4 cups water

Boil rose hips in water. Strain to remove pulp.
Dilute to preferred strength; serve hot.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:GRIT POTLUCK; berry harvesting in America
Author:Layser, Earle F.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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