Saturday, July 3, 2010

Raspberry and Pea pickin"

My dad would never let children pick raspberries or peas, bless his pea pickin' heart. He was always grumpy about that, fearing that they would tramp on next year's raspberry canes,and they did! That they would pick an unripe one with one hand and tear off the whole cluster,ripe and unripe. You can reach further in the patch with one hand than two, so they did. He also complained that they didn't have soft hands so, they squashed the ripe berries. I heard this all my childhood so I have followed his advice. He was right! "The same applies to peas",he groused, "They pull them straight with one hand and rip the vine from the ground. They have to use two hands. One to hold the stem and one to pick the pod. I don't want dried peas!" When I was a boy we didn't, as I recall, have the pea varieties that ripen all at once, like the commercial growers want. Pick them once and that's it! Our old fashioned peas, Lincoln, Tall Telephone, produced over time, so preserving the vines was crucial. He was right again,bless his cotton pickin', pea picken', heart. I was picking raspberries today for the first time and thinking back to all of this. My patch has about five varieties, planted randomly over the years as "fill-ins". They vary as to both size and color, mellow and tart, and date of ripening. Color is OK as an indicator, but for me, because of ripe color differences, texture, from a gentle squeeze with such variable berries is more accurate. I'm careful of my new canes, and always pick with two hands. My gentle squeeze is softer than a good retriever's mouth on a prairie chicken. I've given up on the peas since the California Quail find the sprouting plants delicious and the feral bunnies that have arrived would certainly feel the same if they had the chance.

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