This simple crisp is a sweet treat for breakfast or dessert (recipe here).
The wild blackberries are usually ripe about now, if there are any. Most years the bushes along the roadsides and in the fields are covered with showy white blossoms in spring, giving us the impression that soon the canes will be heavy with jewel-like fruit.
But somewhere in between the flowers and the picking season the rain usually stops, and if any berries do form, they're often small and pungent and full of seeds. One year I went berry picking out past Donkeyland with baby Cary (who is doing fine by the way), and even she wouldn't eat the tart little ones we found.
Another year I found some berries while driving through a friend's field that were nearly as big as my thumb. He pulled the truck right up next to this giant bramble patch, and I picked my fill right through the window. I should have looked in the bed of his truck for a bucket.
This year blackberry season arrived, along with most everything else, about three weeks early. We didn't get any berries, but some of our friends have secret picking places and they managed to score some juicy loot. One of our Amish friends said that they found "a few," and then added that his wife, "put up about 75 quarts."
When I mentioned that the 12 locally picked quarts I'd bought last summer at the one store in town were really small and seedy, he said he's noticed that there are two kinds of wild blackberries that grow around here. Some have five leaves and some have three, and even if they're small from lack of water, the berries on the three-leaved variety don't have many seeds. I need to do some investigating.
My favorite pie is blackberry, and when I'm lucky there are wild berries for my birthday, which is next week. When I'm feeling a little less energetic, I make this old-fashioned blackberry crisp instead, an easy recipe that should not be saved just for special occasions. It even freezes well.
Someday I will have a cultivated blackberry patch. Last year I bought two locally grown blackberry plants and two raspberry plants from the feed store, but I still haven't put them into the ground. I know from past experience that I need to find a spot that is sheep and weedeater proof. In the meantime, they've been transplanted into one-gallon pots and are looking pretty good.
Wild blackberry season in rural Missouri may be unpredictable, but life in very small town America doesn't change much from year to year—and that's just fine with us.
Wishing you a very happy Independence Day, wherever you are in this big, beautiful, bountiful country of ours. It really is an amazing place, isn't it?