Thursday, August 20, 2009

Urban Blackberry Pickers

clipped from

Urban Blackberry Pickers Score Big In Seattle

This is the time of year when Seattleites go foraging for their food. You see them in parks and along roadsides picking blackberries off the bushes that run rampant throughout the city. The state considers the bushes a "Class C noxious weed." To listen to the story Click Here.

Blackberries (Wide)
NPR's Martin Kaste sends us this ode to the urban blackberry.

MARTIN KASTE: This is the time of year when you see Seattleites foraging for their food. You see them in the parks and along the roadside…

(Soundbite of leaves crunching)

KASTE: …as they wade into the thorny overgrowth, plastic pails in hand.

Ms. SARAH CAMPBELL: This one is six cups and this one is 12.

KASTE: Sarah Campbell is in Seattle's Magnusson Park, filling her pails with blackberries.

How fast can you fill those?

Ms. CAMPBELL: I'm hoping I can do both of them in a hour. And then go home and I'm going to make a pie and an apple-blackberry crisp.

KASTE: There's something about urban berry-picking that appeals to the northwestern soul - with a little taste of life off the grid on your way to Starbucks, free dessert on a street where parking meters charge two bucks an hour. Plus, those prickly bushes owe us.

Ms. CAMPBELL: Three seasons out of the year it's just the bane of our existence.

KASTE: The state of Washington calls the Himalayan blackberry bush a Class C noxious weed.

Ms. CAMPBELL: In the winter it's ugly and rangy and, like, dead, you know. And in the spring it crops up all over your yard where you don't want it. It's prickly. You know, in the fall it's just there. But in the summer, it's all it's the glory. You get, like, three weeks when you love the blackberry plant.

KASTE: All it takes is one bite of the perfect berry - one of those from the top of the bush - one that's nothing but sweet globules of juice and all is forgiven. Of course, that doesn't mean a let-up in the war against the bushes.

(Soundbite of goats baaing)

KASTE: One hundred and twenty goats attack a ten-foot wall of blackberry bushes, infesting the property of a local aerospace company.

Ms. TAMMY DUNNACAN(ph): Blackberry - the whole plant is one of their favorite foods.

KASTE: Tammy Dunnacan owns this herd. Her goats are professional blackberry bush eradicators. She calls her business Rent-a-Ruminant. These eating machines can be hired to clear an acre of blackberry bushes in less than a week. Does she ever get complaints from the human berry pickers?

Ms. DUNNACAN: Sometimes. Then sometimes they'll be like, oh, don't, you know, don't eat that one spot. That's my favorite place to pick. But, you know, there's so many here, we have so many blackberries, that there's totally enough to go around, there really is.

KASTE: And in these economic times, there's some comfort in that thought. No matter what happens at Boeing or Microsoft, we can always count on a steady supply of free blackberries.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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