The raspberry lets go of the vine with a soft tug. And another, and another. As I move down rows of bowing green bushes dangling plump rubies, the sun drills my neck with the last blast of summer. I’m reconnecting with my food, going a step farther than the farmers market, straight to the source.
Berry Patch Farms’ is backed by the Rocky Mountains, and fronted by a red barn, skittish chickens, and a truly porky pig.
Just a half hour from my Denver home, tears spring to my eyes as I consider Berry Patch Farms’ long green rows of fruits and veggies — backed by the Rocky Mountains, and fronted by a red barn, skittish chickens, and a truly porky pig. In the city, it’s easy to forget how natural this feels: gathering food from the earth.
Across from me, my friend Kelli says she wishes her father could have come. He grew up on a farm. “He would have loved it, now that it’s not something he has to do,” she says. “He would have enjoyed sharing his expertise, telling us the best way to pick them.” Her father has warned her to wear long sleeves when berry picking, because of the brambles. But we’re not farmers, so there’s no pressure on us to press that deep into the bushes. A few times I do lean in, and it’s kind of itchy, but worth it to reach the bright red clusters everyone else has missed.
A few times I lean in, and the brambles are kind of itchy, but worth it to reach the bright red clusters everyone else has missed.
It’s amazing how many people can walk down the same rows and still leave berries behind. On the other hand, it’s amazing we keep finding them. It must be instinct: the way our eyes pass over dots that are too pale pink or splotchy white or overripe purple, and quickly land on one that’s just right. And then another.
Kelli picks faster than I do.
Kelli picks faster than I do. She seems to have a knack for this. Kelli grows her own vegetables and fruits at home. I just grow flowers, so what do I know?
I keep plopping berries into my mouth, without the guilt I’d feel in a grocery store. I tell myself I’ve earned them. I lose track of how many berries I’ve earned.
Small children work the low branches while moms and dads work the high ones. One toddling girl knows that Mommy likes the brightest berries, so she pulls some out of the full baskets Mommy has set on the ground and hands them to her. She doesn’t understand why her mother doesn’t appreciate this. She’s never heard of Sisyphus. Her own basket remains empty.
She pulls berries out of the full baskets Mommy has set on the ground and hands them to her. Her own basket remains empty.
Berry picking is fun. For about an hour. Then I understand why boxes half this size cost so much at the store. Someone has to tug and drop, tug and drop, one by one.
Soon Kelli has five boxes to my three. “I’ve done this before,” she says, making excuses for me. We’ve been here longer than expected. Perhaps hoping to stave off heat stroke, she grabs one of my boxes and half-fills it in mere moments. Then she decides to get out of the sun and hit the market inside the barn. I tell her I’ll stop after four boxes, but I can’t resist filling a fifth. Now that I’m alone and no longer chattering, I move like a high-speed cartoon: tug-thwop, tug-thwop, tug-thwop.
My berries weigh in at around three pounds: about 18 dollars’ worth.
The next day, I make a raspberry cream pie.
The next day, I make a raspberry cream pie. I puree a cup of raspberries with the cream filling. After it firms up, I tumble most of a box of my red bounty on top. The sun sifts into the kitchen, turning the pie into an embarrassment of showy jewels.
As my husband Dale and I fork slices of homemade crust, pink cream, and red berries into our mouths, we groan with almost obscene pleasure. To me, it is like something scraped off the bottom of heaven, the place where blue sky meets red berry as it rises from the earth and asks: “What, oh what, will you do with me?”