Ode to the berry

Surely one of the greatest pleasures in life is to eat a punnet of berries. Any berry you sample from the endless rouge-palette of varieties is a joy and evoke a childlike excitement and greed. As most Australian travellers to Europe would testify, there is a novelty that knows no bounds to be able to purchase a punnet of raspberries, sweet ripe blackberries or fresh blueberries and gorge one’s self as you walk through a city market; more so to be able to pick your own free of charge.

Walking through Portobello market in London I would often think to myself while watching the English, they don’t know how lucky they are! I mean we do have the odd strawberry in the city I grew up in, and a short-crazed couple of weeks where children stain their fingers picking syrup-sweet mulberries. We also have truckloads of tropical fruit coming out our ears, but growing up in Australia, it was the European berries from the Grimm fairytales and bedtime stories that seemed to be so out of reach.

In Europe the joy at the appearance of berries on a riverbank or mountainside means the height of summer. Berries ripen in the very best of the sunshine of the year and at a time of plenty. And berries mean summer holidays.

When my Australian friends and I discovered brambles full of blackberries on the Thames towpath last summer it was all we could do to stop ourselves from stripping them bare, as best we could. Being amateur berry pickers we failed to equip ourselves with gloves, long sleeves or appropriate footwear and were injured in the process, but it was worth it. I also made an intriguing batch of elderberry jam. Intriguing in that I had never even heard of an elderberry before and found the taste to be like nothing I had ever eaten before. What an adventure!

On our numerous visits to Norway I have been repeatedly delighted to find our friends had raspberry, cloudberry, lingon berry (white and red) and alpine strawberry growing in their front yard - as well as a cherry tree! What’s more, I found blueberries as well as more of all the others growing on local mountainsides, on road sidings and surrounding the local golf course. I mean, didn’t they just spend their entire summer fattening on fresh berries, berries and ice cream and berry tart, pies and cakes of all descriptions? It was with disbelief that I was told that no, not really, they like them but they aren’t racing out in some kind of berry-induced frenzy at first sight of the crop. They in turn couldn’t understand how us tropical fruit eaters could let mango fall and rot.

On my return home I will be happy with my tropical delights but I will miss those berries.


TravelsAnne Giacomantonio