It is late spring in Alabama and time for blackberries to ripen. Blackberries have a wonderful history. Most food humans eat were originally domesticated thousands of years ago and then later spread throughout the world. Most grains were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent or Asia. Corn was domesticated in North and Central America. Potatoes were domesticated in South America. However, blackberries have lived in the wild state for thousands of years. Various species of blackberries have been eaten throughout the world since mankind’s hunter/gatherer days, but until very recently they were never domesticated.
For many farmers of the past, blackberry plants were considered a nuisance. They grew on the edges of forests and farmland with their long roots rapidly spreading into prime farmland. Wild blackberries still grow throughout North America in abandoned lots, along highways, and around forests.
The thorns of a wild blackberry plant make picking the berries a lot of work. This morning I dressed in long pants and shoes as I began my picking. Some people use gloves, but for me I am unable to carefully pick the ripest berries so I pick them bare handed. I try to be careful, but after a morning of picking my hands are potted with thorn marks, and my fingers are stained with their juice. Once home, the work is just beginning. Wild blackberries are often intermixed with bugs as well as debris. They must be carefully looked over and washed. We put some of the blackberries in the freezer for later turning into preserves. I saved out a bowl to eat fresh just for the enjoyment of it.
As I enjoy the fruits of our labors today, I reflect that for thousands of years in the spring, mankind has done just as we have done today.