Saturday, September 11, 2010

Forty-eight Hours in the Life of a Blackberry

The eat-local folks may have a point.  Not the one about saving fuel and energy costs, which may be largely a myth, but the one about quality and taste. 

On our way to the coast on Thursday, we stopped, as usual, at Gowan's Oak Tree, a wonderful fruit stand surrounded by apple orchards. Now is the harvest time for local fruits and vegetables, so they had a wide array of produce on sale, including some we'd never seen before. Lemon-cucumbers? Really? 

Among other things, we purchased a pint of local blackberries, ripe and plump in a sensual, fruity way.  When tasted, these berries were an orgasmic experience. They burst in the mouth and your tastebuds practically shouted "these are the best fruits you've ever tasted!!!" Yes, with that many exclamation points. Or more.  Frankly, they were more like tiny treasures than just another food.

Sweet, but not overly so, but it was the depth of flavor that was astonishing. So many nuances, you could practically taste the humming of the bees that fertilized the flowers, and the warm, sunny summer days they spent ripening in the sun. They must have been just hours from the picking when we bought them.  I've lived in houses with berry vines, and even fresh off the vine, they never tasted this good. These berries were grown by someone who knew how.

And yet...and yet. We brought them to the house in Mendocino, and to preserve them, we put in the refrigerator. We ate a few throughout the evening, and on Friday morning, they graced our breakfast.  They were still wonderful.

But on Saturday morning, they had become....just berries. No different from any berry I've gotten in the grocery.  Sometime in the last 24 hours, the flavor of heaven had fled. They've even hardened a bit and lost that vulnerable tenderness and softness to the tooth.  It was the time since picking or the stay in refrigeration, or something. Anyone who has never tasted fresh berries just picked probably couldn't understand the fuss over the loss of flavor. I certainly won't be expending a lot of money on supermarket berries now that I know how they should taste.

It was a sobering lesson on what we lose when we don't eat locally. 

And tomorrow I may tell you about the best salad I ever ate. Or beads. I have bead stories too. 

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