Monday, August 9, 2010

Black Nightshade, Bunchberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

My efforts toward progress on my journey, my quest for the skills, wisdom, and knowledge to make a pair of MooseBoots, has been very sporadic lately.  Things get busy, frantic even.  They don't ever seem to stop, but, in the few minutes pause afforded, there seems to be some time, not enough, just some.

I went hunting for the seemingly elusive wild Maine blueberry.  They were well hidden and difficult to find.  Maybe, this is because the girls were along and enjoying the day.  Perhaps, there has been a lot of pressure and they've simply going into hiding.  Regardless, the blueberry patch we hunt supported only a meager few small berries.  We searched around the area, but only came up with a handful for our trouble.  During the search, we did find this.

This is a bunchberry.  Bunchberry, the world.  I had never taken the time to really see this plant before.  I knew in an instant that it was bunchberry.   Of course, I left it and returned to the house to consult with Nature's Garden to ensure that my intuition was correct.  Perhaps, I should consider carrying this with me on my adventures ... hmmmm.  Anyway ... I went back and picked a single berry to sample.  Thayer suggests that the berries are bland, but I found that, after eating partridge berries when I find them (kind of a bond with the land thing for me), they had a pleasant, mildly sweet flavour.  This is certainly a plant worth knowing, but I won't count on it for more than a bit of a snack or to bond with a place.

We decided to avail ourselves of a nearby pick-your-own farm for the blueberries.  I'll admit it was much quicker picking 4 pounds of berries on lovely high-bush plants bursting with fruit.  The part that bothers me is that we had to pay for them.  Can you still consider it foraging if money changes hands, even if it is a reasonable sum?

My inner hunter gatherer was not satisfied with this effort and demanded more.  So, when we returned home, we all walked on the nearby portion of the Eastern Trail.  I have been foraging snacks at work, after having watched the blackberry bushes for months in eager anticipation.  I knew that the blackberries should be ready.  The bramble were not at full peak yet, but there were plenty of berries for the picking.  After a pleasant, sunny time, we returned home and weigh our haul ... 3.5 pounds.  The intent is now, during the peak, to return and pick more.  All of the berries that were not immediately eating have been washed and frozen for the winter.

Not to be shown up, our own lovely homestead still provides plenty of surprises.  We compost, rather lazily, but we do.  Our compost pile tends to provide more than just fill for any of the various beds, pots, or otherwise.  It also provides us with plants ... some we know because we cultivated them previously, some we do not, perhaps they are native to our area and appreciate the rich, healthy, fertile medium.  Wendy was weeding her garden and pulled up this plant. 

She asked me if I knew what it was. 
"No."  Upon close inspection, I added, " that little green berry, and the way the leaves attach to it looks like a tiny tomato."
"It is not a tomato."  Pause.  "Maybe," she added, "it is a member of the nightshade family."
Clickety click, click, click ... searching ... "Hmmm, how about black nightshade?"  Flip, flip, flip ... reading (Nature's Garden) ... "Hey, that's edible!"  How's that for teamwork?

Patiently, I waited for the berries to ripen.  I picked one, after confirming that it was indeed black nightshade and not one of the other nightshade family members, and popped it in my mouth.  Ewww, not what I expected ... it tastes like tomato and is not sweet like other berries.  Tomatoes, in case you couldn't guess, are not my favorite fruits.  Musing, gears whirling, I wonder if you could make a tomato-like sauce for pasta with those?

This MooseBoots path, in spite of life's twist and turns, is simply amazing.  It still surprises me how often my intuition is correct and how much I already know.  Of course, there is always more to learn ... I think it is a testament to one's wisdom when this realization comes to light.  Of course, while picking blackberries from the bushes at work the other day, I became aware of some other berries that need identification.  See, more to learn and experience.


  1. Excellent post Deus and some great pictures to boot. Hope that you carry on down this path.

  2. Murphyfish, thank you. I hope to learn as much as I can and share this knowledge/wisdom with others.


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