Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wild Foods Festival - Okarito style

By Debbie

Blackberries and Yogurt  Mmmm!

Step outside our house after dinner these evenings and you will feast on a treat remembered from childhood....we are in the midst of one of the best blackberry seasons I can remember.  The first crop was light, as always, but the berries were plump and sweet.  Now we're into the main crop and bushes are laden.

Blackberry season co-insides with excursions to favourite and sometimes secret sites!!!  Its a family tradition, and as the only remaining family members still permanently "on the Coast" its up to us to fill the freezer with berries for the homecoming visits, and the resulting mouth-watering pies.

More intensive farming these days has greatly reduced the areas of wild lands. Blackberries are largely confined to roadsides and riverbeds.  The best berries are found amoungst the scattered clumps of totara trees at the extremities of the river-flats.  Several spots are known to host the so-called "Italian" variety, big juicy berries with bursting flavour.  Roaming with your billy,  often brings to mind the early pioneers who introduced these plants, what a welcome relief they must have been to fruit staved gold miners.

As they must have been to our mothers and grandmothers, who made jellies and pies, in an era where frozen supermarket treats were non-existent.  Today our grandchildren ask when visiting from the city "do you have any of those black berries in the freezer" and gobble them up frozen - the healthiest fast food ever.

But back to Okarito - is that a mushroom over there - better stop the black-berrying and take off your hat, there's a feast on the ground, popped up overnight, a legacy from the days of sheep roaming freely.

And hurry, nearly low tide, time to gather mussels ;  time and tide wait for no man!!!