My friend Amy over at her beautiful nature blog wrote about wild blackberries today. Reading her post brought back a flood of emotions and memories of our dream trip to Ireland in September last year.
I remember how our dear friends from Belfast took us hiking in the Mourne Mountains (awesome! totally magical!) – not realising that the two of us were not the fittest of hikers. But never mind the aching legs, wobbly knees and blisters – the experience was one of those unforgettable highlights that is now embedded in our DNA.
And it was they who, unwittingly, gave us another present that we took with us throughout our 3-week journey around their island:
They taught us about the wild blackberries growing on the side of the road during September/October every year.
We had never seen blackberries growing in the wild before, and had no idea that they were edible. After some initially cautious nibbles, we discovered that they were not only edible, but DELICIOUS! Sweet and sour at the same time, their flavours were all intermingled with Irish raindrops and the distinct smell of the earth and the fragrance of turf fires in the distance.
Once we knew what to look for, we found them EVERYWHERE:
They lined those super-narrow tracks that the Irish seem to regard as two-way roads, where one is likely to encounter herds of skittish sheep, placid cows and smoke-belching farm machinery. Their brambles created impenetrable hedges, a-twitter with birds, which had often devoured most of the ripe berries by the time we arrived. They grew near holy wells and rag trees, and on isolated paths leading up to megalithic burial mounds, cairns and dolmens. They grew near lonely streams and in quiet forests. We soon associated them with magical and mythical sites, in places where we could feel our spirit settle down, breathe more easily, and take root in the earth again.
In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more photos of them, but we began to take them for granted because they seemed to be growing simply everywhere. It was only when I returned to South Africa, that I discovered that blackberries do not grow all year round after all, and that we had been really fortunate to have seen – and eaten – so many.