Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Okay...it might be time to take a break from gallivanting across half of Québec to tell you a little bit about my adventures.
Just as I had hoped, I have been having a relaxing Northern summer, and it's been almost like finally having a honeymoon except for the fact that Charles has had to work. A few weeks ago now, we went for a trip to Charles's home region, almost nine hours' drive from Montréal, to spend some time with his immediate family—just the 15 of us! Only one brother-in-law was missing.
On the drive there we stopped at a picnic area for lunch and within 10 minutes Charles had snuffled out something he had long told me about: a patch of wild strawberries. They were everything I had hoped they would be! Tiny fruits as small as my little finger nail with more flavour in each one than a whole handful of commercially grown ones. There were also a few wild blueberry plants and raspberry canes, but it was just a little bit early for them, sadly, and there were only one or two ripe ones to be found. Charles showed me the types of spots the strawberries like to grow in—sunny patches that aren't prone to water-logging—and after that I was on the scout.
When we arrived at Charles's parents' home in Ville-Marie, Témiscamingue, we learned that a relative had been out picking wild strawberries and had discovered a plot so good he'd picked enough to make jam. Proving that blood is not thicker than a good confiture, he refused to tell anyone where his special spot was. I was scandalised, but apparently that is just how it goes, so we determined to find our own patch and be childish and not tell anyone else where it was either.
The next day we drove up and down the back roads, me oohing and aahing over the scenery while Charles eyed the grassy verges like a hawk. After two hot, dusty hours we stopped at yet another prospective patch—me losing a little hope if the truth be told—and blam! There it was! The motherlode!
What followed was one of the most perfect 30 minutes of my life: picking teensy, ripe, wild strawberries and the occasional blueberry under the summer sun in a daisy field with my beloved. Yep, perfect! We only stopped because that summer sun was pretty ferocious and we were starting to get sunburnt, but after half an hour of solid picking by two grown adults we were able to hold our heads high and return with this great bounty:
Suffice to say no jam making for us, but we did have renewed respect for the elderly relative who had done so well. The next morning we were doubly lucky enough to be able to eat all of the haul for breakfast ourselves—the kids don't like blueberries (what!?) and the adults were kind and claimed they had already eaten a lot of wild strawberries this season, so we should have them. Since we still had to hull each berry, it took us another 30 minutes to polish them off.
So, as you may gather, I have had a very happy introduction to the joys of wild berry picking in North America. I look forward to it being a regular summer event over the coming years, just as I am looking forward to going apple picking in Autumn/Fall. Below is a picture of our special wild strawberry patch, the berry plants well hidden down below the daisies. But come now, beyond vague geographical hints, don't imagine for a second that I am going to tell you where it is!