School Days, — February 21, 2009 21:32 — 0 Comments

Picking wild fruits

August and September were also the blackberry months. The hedges and stone ditches were heavy with the fruit, well protected by their thorny briers.  Blackberries were in demand from dye works and they purchased all that could be gathered.  So it was inevitable that we picked as much as we could while the season lasted.

Before school started after the long summer break and at weekends after it did we would head out into the countryside with cans and buckets and sometimes a tin bath.  We each had a small tin cup or an empty can that we emptied into the bucket as it was filled. These were easier to handle during the picking stage.

 

The aim was to find the briar patches with the largest load of the largest ripe berries and steadily pick them clean. The technique was to pull whole bunches of berries into the tin rather than pick them individually. Quality control there was none; ripe or unripe, clean or with maggots, all were scooped into the tins. As these filled we tipped them into the bigger buckets and then into the tin bath until they were all packed, or we were sufficiently tired or hungry to quit. By the end of the season our fingers were stained a deep purple with masses of black pinpricks where the juice had penetrated the skin from the thorns.

 

Each week a lorry would collect our load. It was weighed and tipped into barrels and the appropriate amount paid. The going price was, I think, 2s 6d a stone –

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