Archive for blueberries

…nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blueberries

Posted in delicious places, delicious stories with tags on August 31, 2009 by thatwasdelicious

We were at that point in a long car trip when everything smells like coffee. As low on conversation as we were on gas. We’d been driving all morning and were almost to the Canadian border. Outside the windows the early afternoon sun glowed hot yellow in the trees and glittered off small lakes. The water looked so, so good to our sticky selves, and Matt pulled over at a state wetlands refuge, hoping we’d find a place to dive in.

I’d imagined an airy walk through inviting meadows, but the path wound through high moist bushes and grasses, a hot green tunnel. Deerflies and mosquitoes whined by our ears and made papery little thuds on our shoulders. Matt slapped at them and I just took bigger steps until I was marching fast. We started talking big futures, trotting single file, yelling at each other over our shoulders. The dark smell of water wafted by on a few tiny puffs of breeze.

We almost stumbled as the path spat us out into a cool, windy strip of woods at the edge of the lake.  It was lovely, but there was no shore: at the treeline, the marsh began and extended for hundreds of feet. Tall grasses packed tightly into black, speckled marshwater. No swim to be had.

Sweaty, momentum gone, we turned back. Birds chirred on either side of us and bounced in the bushes. They were eating something. At eye level, a velvety glimmer caught my attention: opaque indigo berries, small and full in bunches. They looked familiar, like those round birdberries I used to mix into mud pies when I was little. I squished one between my finger. Blue-purple skin, white flesh inside. On an impulse, lifted it to my tongue.

Fragrant. Sweet. Tangy. Delicious.

These look familiar? Of course! Blueberries!

Nestled in the shiny green leaves: ripe, perfect bunches of blueberries. Hundreds of bunches, from above my head to a foot off the ground. In the bushes behind: blueberries. Of course I didn’t recognize them: I have never  seen as many blueberries in one place as I did that afternoon.

I whooped the news down the path to Matt. “Yo! Blueberries!”  Matt paused, turned to the bushes near his ear. Leaned close. Blueberries. Picked one, ate it. I watched his mouth pucker, his eyelids flutter with pleasure. I peered down the heat-hazy alley of bushes through which we’d sprinted on our way to the lake.

All blueberries. Ripe clusters of wild fruit surrounded us on either side, as far as I could see, spaced not by feet but by inches. I couldn’t believe it. It felt as if someone had enchanted the forest after we passed through it, transformed it into a blueberry cathedral behind our backs. The berries gleamed frosty blue and glossy purple, and when I gently tugged at a clump they plopped obligingly, one by one, into my cupped hand.

We ate our way back down the trail, entranced by the berries on either side – not only by their taste, the best blueberries I’ve ever eaten, warm from the sun and perfectly ripe and tight and tangy, but also by their sudden appearance, the strangeness of not having SEEN them.

Their sheer dizzying abundance was also a delight in itself. When is the last time you came across food, picked and ate it? Not in your vegetable garden, not at a pick-your-own place? I tilted my face to the sun. Alone on the path with Matt – gobbling berries a little further down – I felt naked, foolish, perfect – the humans watched from a distance by some fairytale creature who has just played a fantastic joke on them. Cell phones and self-important future sketching aside, we were just two happy humans, grazing on good luck. I could walk, reach up, and  – while still walking –  lightly come away with a palm full of fruit. I funneled berries down my throat from cupped hands. I ate until the point of greed, full but still picking, lazily grabbing the choicest berries I saw and leaving the rest. Then we started picking in earnest. We pulled blueberries from their branches for a mile, filling Matt’s upturned baseball hat to the brim.

When we got to Quebec, we gave our hosts blueberries for their crepes. But the enchanted berries didn’t make it to the plate – they were made to be eaten off of palms and fingers in great warm juicy gulps, and so they were.