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Berry Picking

By Joyce Maynard, "Berry Picking," July/August 2011

Author Joyce Maynard's essay on picking berries with her daughter.

When my daughter Audrey was small we made a pilgrimage every August to Pitcher Mountain where wild blueberries grew. Even a 3-year-old, motivated by the prospect of berries, could manage the hike to the top, where the best bushes could be found. Our container of choice was usually a plastic milk jug with the opening cut large enough to get your hand in and a piece of rope looped through the handle so each of us could attach our jug to our waist. That left both hands free for gathering.

No question, wild blueberries take a lot longer to accumulate than the cultivated variety (particularly when one half of the picking team is a child who puts more berries in her mouth than in her jug). But there’s no contest which berry—wild or cultivated—makes the better pie. With berries as with children, you discover, good things come in small packages.

Every now and then—when the summer had brought just the right combination of sun and rain—we came home so loaded with berries that we could make jam, too, or freeze whole bagfuls to toss in pancakes and over oatmeal all through the long New Hampshire winters. Once or twice, though, it was all we could do to get a single pie’s worth of berries, the pickings were so slim. Berry yield has its ups and downs, same as life does.

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