Not by searching online. I could only find photos of ripe berries, delicious-looking, fat berries. Berries in their prime. Profile-photo quality berries. Blackberry porn. Berries showing their obviously good side, their night-before-the-morning-after side. Berries that make a person think, “Why didn’t I…”
I didn’t all summer, at least, not till now, in the last days of this Oregon September, after a July & August so scorched & smoky that at times I barely wanted to go outside—and I love being outside. Now, all I could gather was a scarce pint, about a cup of which I ate, & instantly regretted. The few berries I’d picked had been surrounded by many more that were shriveled & dried, but still hanging on the vine. Was that normal? I didn’t know. I haven’t done much wild blackberry picking or eating. Though I’ve admired ripe berries in passing hundreds of times, I couldn’t remember seeing dried berries like that. Thoughts of having poisoned myself pooled like moisture at the base of a woody plant that was HOSE ‘N GO®’d. “Won’t harm the soil,” claims the label, right alongside, “Kills Completely.”
Abject, I needed photos of blackberries that have seen their day. Berries about done. Given-up berries. What do they look like? What’s normal? How to tell? How to tell if a kingdom of blackberry vines is through producing a healthy peopling of fruit?
This is really a post so photos will come up when “how to tell if blackberries been sprayed by pesticides” is typed in browser search boxes. Or—more likely, with blackberries: herbicides. Blackberries have earned labels like, “invasive” & “noxious” & “harmful to ecosystems.” They shan’t live here unthwarted, insist cities & landscapers, who trade invasive species in wetland runoff areas for chemicals with suspected endocrine disrupters & possible carcinigens. The poison used is in the Highest Hazard grouping & its longterm health hazards are unknown. (Though, for a good Halloween scare, read what this says about the long term health hazards of lawn weed & crabgrass killers.)
Back to the berries I’d eaten. What if someone finally gets around to going out picking for their famous Afterthought Cobbler, and the berries still on the vine are shriveled, dry & strange looking? Is that normal? Or is it a sign of intentional killing?
Why else would berries cling to the vine, untouched by human or bird?
The only way to tell, I decided, minutes after contacting the local parks department who said Yes, they sometimes do spray their plants with herbicide, but not lately, & they cut first, so I “should be fine,” was a study with a larger sample. I could safely assume not every Himilayan blackberry grove in the county was poisoned, right?
So here’s my data from a day wandering yellowing leaves & thorns, looking for berries at the end of their season as nature intended. These are photos of what are (I’m pretty sure) normal late-September berries, that have not been poisoned (I can’t be 100% sure).
But I did find one sure way to tell that blackberry picking season is over.
This, for me, was the sign there’ll be no more stretching of my arms & fingers in thorny branches for a late ripened berry, man-made poisons or no. These guys are everywhere.
© Naomi Fast 2018