The Berries of Summer
Eat them raw or cook them in a pie. Make some jam or press them into wine. Use them to inspire poetry, paint color or pure and simple delight.
Never read a poem about summer berries? Try “Blueberries” by Robert Frost.
Never written a poem about summer berries? It is easy. Just let your taste buds do the writing.
Never painted a room the color of your favorite berry? I am sure that I read somewhere that painting a room “Strawberry Scarlet” can increase your life expectancy by 17 years at minimum.
When we recognize a berry’s delightfulness, we are also able to recognize the goodness of the day. The one thing that most human beings have in common is that we hang on to the bad and forget to grasp onto a moment when it is really good.
Let the ephemeral berry remind you that each day is a part of the ever-changing seasons. If you wait too long on a good thing, it will pass you by.
But that is enough of the romantic stuff. Let’s get real.
The truth is berries are a plant’s way of taking advantage of an animal’s sweet tooth.
The fleshy berry is a cover-up for the seeds inside. These seeds, hidden in the berry, are consumed whole by the fruit-eaters as incidental parts of the meal.
The seeds are then unharmed as they pass through the animal’s digestive system to be deposited some distance away in the droppings. Essentially, the plant tricks the animal into spreading their seeds into new habitats.
And the animal provides a hefty dose of fertilizer to boot.
Blueberries and huckleberries still have a tough time germinating, however. Many of these shrubs propagate via a spreading root system that sends up new shoots as it spreads underground.
Ever seen a big clump of blueberry bushes? Chances are the plants are the natural clones of the first “mother” plant. Some clone groups are estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, based on their annual growth and the acreage they cover.
Many animals that eat summer berries, like bears and birds, can see in color. This helps them to discern a ripe berry from a “green” berry.
Color as an indicator of ripeness is an interesting adaptation of the berry. Without it, berries might be eaten before the seeds inside are fully developed.
Of course, even a slightly green berry can taste good if sweetened in a pie or cobbler.
Have you had your fingers pricked by a blackberry bush this summer? Have you laughed with your friends while showing off your blue smile? Did you “ruin” your favorite shirt with a big purple stain? Good for you.
Amy Renfranz is a North Carolina-certified environmental educator, certified interpretive guide and a Yellowstone Association Institute-certified naturalist. Have a question? Email Amy at (firstname.lastname@example.org)