Yesterday my friend Tung and I set off bright and early with her dog Toby to go blackberry picking.
I love the process: finding the succulent black berries that are only sweet when perfectly ripe among the sour pretenders. The fat, plump ripe ones are the sweetest fruit there is. They always seem just beyond easy reach, the thorns always ready to scratch. Maybe that’s what inspires so many blackberry poems—the picking lends itself to metaphor.
But alas, despite our hopes, our buckets, and our enthusiasm, the berry crop seemed either desiccated—brown nubs instead of berries–or picked over. After an hour, I had seven berries in my bowl, while Toby had about seventy burs in his fur.
Luckily, Tung’s neighbor Catherine has a fig tree—more like a fig mountain—loaded with figs. We happily picked enough for jam in about 10 minutes.
Catherine is a fellow gardener, and grew up on her father’s farm, where she lives now in Walnut Creek.
Fig, quince, peach, and apple trees groan with fruit. There is no substitute in fruit trees for time. She was cooking ratatouille with eggplant, tomatoes and squash when we arrived.
So today, I have six jars of delicious fig jam. At Catherine’s suggestion, I added lemon juice and zest, just the perfect touch to cut the intense sweetness, with lemons from her tree.
Still, I don’t know a single poem about figs, and I know five wonderful ones about blackberries. That will be tomorrow.