Blueberries are worth getting soaked to the skin. My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her at The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri., early on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was fun, despite the rain.
My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her on July 4th at The Berry Patch, in Cleveland, Missouri, which is about 20 minutes from where we live. I’d heard about the farm years ago, but had never visited so I was glad for the invitation.
The forecast called for rain, but we decided to go anyway. Rain started as we drove, but optimistically we continued, thinking that at least we’d have the place to ourselves. Wrong. There were about fifty cars parked there when we arrived at 7:25 a.m. The farm opens at 7 a.m. For some, picking blueberries on Independence Day is a tradition. Since blueberries are only available for a few months — several types of blueberries are planted to stretch out the season — July 4th is a good reminder to get to the farm. You can rush home with your blueberries to add them to a red white and blue dessert. Pat said that because of the rain, the crowd was actually quite thin. When it’s sunny, you have a lot more competition for blueberries. There are many bushes, however. The Berry Patch is the largest berry farm in Missouri. There are 30 acres of blueberry bushes and four acres of blackberry bushes. A store sells jams, syrups and baked goods, and there is a playground area for kids, and picnic tables for picnic lunches.
Thunder crashed when we got out of the car, but fortunately we didn’t hear much thunder or see lightning afterward. It did rain a lot, though. After a while, you forget the rain as you pick pick pick those blueberries.
The Berry Patch provides white buckets with a plastic bag liner. They provide twine so that you can attach the bucket to your waist so you have two free hands to pick. After about two hours of picking, I picked almost six pounds and Pat almost nine pounds. She had two buckets. I bought some blueberry jam and blueberry syrup, too.
As we climbed into the car, we were soaked to the skin, but I was so glad we ignored the weather report. I hope to make blueberry picking a July 4th tradition. I may even go again this summer to replenish my supply. I’ve already eaten two cups of blueberries today.
Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?
I love fruit, but I’d never heard of marula fruit until a friend (Thanks, Anita!) introduced me to Amarula, a creamy liqueur made in Africa from fermented marula fruit.
Fermented marula fruit makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans in a liqueur called Amarula. Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it’s a myth that they’ll get drunk. They couldn’t eat enough to get inebriated. The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa. This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Elephants like to eat marula fruit and are Amarula’s symbol. Folklore through the ages told of elephants getting drunk on fermented marula fruit, but that tall tale has been debunked. I don’t want to be a party pooper, but elephants couldn’t eat enough fermented fruit to get bombed. According to a 2006 scientific study cited in Smithsonian Magazine, “Elephants do have a taste for alcohol, but when scientists sat down to look at the claim, they found several problems. First, the elephants don’t eat the rotten fruit off the ground. They eat the fresh fruit right off the tree. Second, the fresh fruit doesn’t spend enough time in the elephant to ferment and produce alcohol there. And, third, even if the elephant did eat the rotten fruit, the animal would have to eat 1,400 pieces of exceptionally fermented fruit to get drunk.” Smithsonian Magazine: The Alcoholics of the Animal World.
Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested. Here, some marula nuts have passed through an elephant. The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.
While the elephants don’t get soused from fermented fruits, elephants are among the many species that enjoy the versatile marula fruit for its flesh and its nut, which is full of protein. The marula fruit and its nut have been important source of nutrition in Africa for eons. The fruit has eight times the Vitamin C of an orange, too. Among the animals that eat the marula fruit and nut are antelopes, including impalas, kudus and nyalas. Baboons, warthogs, zebras, porcupines, vervet monkeys, small mammals and even millipedes also feed on the marula, which belongs to the same plant family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac. Browsing animals eat the leaves. Marula nut oil is also supposed to have rejuvenating effect on your skin, so the marula can give you a glow both inside and out. About the Marula Tree and Fruit.About Marula Oil for Your Skin.
While reading this post I recommend an Amarula cocktail, which has a mild creamy citrus flavor. If you can’t find Amarula, you can sip Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua. Drink responsibly, of course!
Here’s My Recipe for a Wild Elephant, which is really a White Russia, replacing the Kahlua with Amarula:
2 oz vodka
1 oz Amarula liqueur
Pour vodka and Amarula liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with light cream and serve.
For other recipes. click on Cocktail Recipes.
In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit. Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit. Click on the photo to get a better view.
The long-time belief that elephants and other animals get drunk on fermented marula fruit was popularized in the 1974 documentary “Animals are Beautiful People.” Some smaller animals can get drunk from fermented fruit, but people have claimed that the supposedly drunkenness of the animals from fermented marula was staged in the movie, after alcohol had been added to their food. If so, that’s animal abuse. The narration is over the top, too, but the video does show the types of animals that eat the marula fruit. It also shows elephants shaking marula trees to knock down the fruit. Scientific American: Do Animals Like to Get Drunk? Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth About “Animals are Beautiful People.”
The marula fruit on this tree will turn yellow when ripe.
Owls don’t eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. Perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl’s dinner.
Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.
Late May and early June bring strawberries in the Kansas City area. After the long, cold, dreary miserable winter we had, I was thrilled when the first ripe strawberries appeared in my little patch every day. This year I’ve made some changes in my diet, avoiding refined sugar in everything, so I’m satisfying my sweet tooth with more fruit. I’m very grateful for my abundant strawberry crop, even if I have to squat and stretch every day for half an hour picking through the leaves to find these tiny red jewels. It’s kind of like yoga, except my back aches when I stand up. (Ok, maybe it’s only 15 minutes a day, it just seems longer.)
Every spring, my maternal grandmother made strawberry rhubarb pies and sauces. She grew the plants in her huge garden, and my cousins and I would also find it among the grass and weeds in the old abandoned garden plot, where rhubarb and asparagus plants were all that remained. The rhubarb plants seemed eternal to me then, although I’ve never had any luck keeping any alive in my own gardens. When I saw some rhubarb for sale at a country market, I bought about ten stalks. Rhubarb isn’t palatable without sugar, though, so I’ve added some no-calorie sugar substitute, which is also a no-no, but I’m not giving that up fake sugar entirely. What is life without rhubarb?
I chopped the rhubarb, cooked it in about two cups water, cooled it and then added a cup of fresh strawberries. Then I added some fake sugar to taste. I added some of the sauce to nonfat Greek yogurt. Yummy!
Here’s what I’ve written in the past about my strawberry passion. Third Annual Strawberry Photograph
Of course, I have to link to a downer article from the New York Times about how sugar is very, very, very bad for you. Is Sugar Toxic? Below is a related video that will cause you to weep. I’ve been hearing this for years, but chose to ignore it, but now I’m trying to avoid sugar completely except in fruits and vegetables. After watching this video, it sounds as if I need to cut back on fruit, too…
Freshly squeezed key limes in limeade dispel the wintry gloom.
It’s always cold every winter in Kansas, but we usually get a lot of sunshine, which is cheerful even when you’re freezing. This year it’s been cloudy almost every day. I was hoping for a break from gloom when I went to southern California in mid-January, but it rained there, too. I did get some sunny days, too, so I’ll stop whining. While there, my daughter and I visited long-time friends Jan and Richard. Their yard is a small orchard of citrus trees — Meyer lemon, key lime and blood orange. Some years their harvest is so huge they don’t know what to do with it all, partly because everyone with tree is experiencing a boon year, too.
I was happy to take a few pounds of their key limes off their hands, which I hauled home to snow-covered Kansas.
Key limes ready for squeezing.
When I visited them in January, we squeezed a lot of key limes to make this refreshing limeade. They use a sugar syrup to sweeten it. The recipe for that syrup is in the link below to Richard’s sangria. They have a handy citrus squeezer, which made the job go quickly. I bought one when I got home, although I don’t know when I’ll use it again. Click for the sugar syrup recipe, as well as a tasty Sangria Recipe.
This key lime tree is loaded with fruit.
All photographs are of Jan and Richard’s key limes.
I love apples, the tasty member of the rose family. These McIntosh apples are my favorites.
I grasp your smooth curves eagerly between my trembling fingers. Your skin is so brilliantly green, blushed with bright red.
You minx, how you tease me with your beauty, with the promise of your juicy sweetness. Are you ripe? I hold you to my lips. My teeth bite into your firm white flesh. I taste tartness, yet sugar melts into my mouth. On my tongue I feel you crisp and firm, yet yielding, a dribble of juice on my lips. Piquant perfectly describes how you stimulate my taste buds.
So clearly, I remember the day we first met. It was a warm early autumn day, a little overcast in a New York orchard. Everywhere, the leaves were brilliant, although yours, I must confess, were a little spotty. Leafy Autumn fire is not your glory. No matter. Your abundance overwhelmed me. The pleasure of your flesh enraptured me. I am yours forever. (Catherine L. Sherman)
An ancient apple tree at Anita's old house holds a tree house in its stout limbs, which no longer bear fruit.
The McIntosh apple will always hold a place in my heart and in my fruit bin, when in season… My dear long-time friend Anita, her daughters and their friends took me apple picking in an orchard near her home in Binghamton. Actually, the only picking we did was in the orchard store, but it was fun, anyway. Children laughed on a small ferris wheel. A tang of smoke hung in the cool air. We inhaled the earthy fragrance of wet leaves as we shuffled through the rapidly growing leafy drifts. Pumpkins were piled outside the store. We chose some of those, too. It was early October 1994. I wasn’t there quite at the peak of the brilliant fall colors, but the forest was still a beautiful sight.
Anita and her family lived in an historic white clapboard house near Binghamton, surrounded by massive sugar maples that were tapped every year to make maple syrup. At the back of the yard, an ancient gnarled apple tree embraced a tree house.
The following October my father died. Anita mailed me a box of McIntosh apples and some jugs of maple syrup. She couldn’t have chosen better.
Anita and I can't seem to stay away from apple orchards. Maybe we are really daughters of eve. Here's a small orchard we stopped by in Tasmania. We stopped because I wanted a photograph. We were really in the area to see a waterfall and buy some cheese.
For more about the apple family, click here: Stalking the Placid Apple’s Untamed Kin. This story is about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Genetic Resources Unit, in upstate New York, which is home to the world’s most extensive collection of apple varieties and relatives. Closer to my home in Kansas City, Powell Gardens showcases Missouri’s finest apple varieties in its Apple Celebration Court.
John Keats’ “Ode to an Nightingale” inspired me to write this ode, which technically is not an ode, but does praise and glorify a subject. “Bright Star,” a movie about Keats, was very good. See it!
A scan of my photograph of an area near Binghamton, New York, in October 1994, when the trees are starting to turn. (In the dark ages before digital cameras...)