The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1985

Issue: August, 1985

The summer days here in the Blue Ridge brings back memories of the things I did as a young girl and still try to do as much as possible. Picking wild berries is one of those memories that I cherish and still do occasionally, although the berries aren't as plentiful, you can roam around and still find some.

My first memory of berry "picking" is of going to the meadow to get plump and juicy dewberries. In just a short while, our pails would be full. Mom Gracie would can the berries, always leaving some for a yummy cobbler. Now as I go through that same field, I find a few dewberries, but never like my dad and I use to find. The dewberry has a flavor different than the blackberry and the vines run along the ground. I'm lucky to have some growing near my garden.

My Granny Dollie was the person I always picked blackberries with. Our favorite spot was down at the Brammer Field Spring. It's always cool there, birds singing and the sound of the small creek flowing over the rocks. I always had to go wading whenever Granny and I picked berries there. A few blackberries still grow and I go back sometimes. It's not the same without Granny, but I cherish the times I shared with her.

Mom Gracie tells me of picking blackberries in The Dark Hollow, that were over an inch long, fat and juicy. She would set a big water bucket under the vines and fill it while standing in one place. They canned most of the berries and also made preserves, jams and jellies. Always some were saved to make that cobbler.

Raspberries used to grow abundantly here in the mountains of Virginia. I love to pick them because they come off the stem so easy. Their flavor is different and I enjoy eating them. The jelly made from this berry is a favorite at my house.

If I wander on down, in the mountainside, there is the wine berry. They are unusual because at first there is a little fuzzy pod. Then out pops a little red berry. I always heard that if you ate enough of them, they would make you drunk. Once I ate so many my head felt light. We used to pick them by the bucketful and Mom Gracie made a jelly out of them that was a pretty red color.

My favorite berry is the wild strawberry. Their taste is sweet and different and oh! How I love them. I always cap them while I'm picking and enjoy eating also. They make delicious pies, cobblers, preserves, jam and jelly. Wild strawberry jam on a hot buttered biscuit will make your taste buds drool.

I have a special memory of my son, Mr. Sam Wood and wild strawberries. Mr. Wood was a fine neighbor and much respected man in the community. When my son was a little boy, Mr. Wood would come riding up the road in that old pick up truck and my son, Ronald would run to the road and Mr. Sam would hand Ronald big bunches of wild strawberries still on the stem.

I feel lucky that I can still pick wild berries and enjoy nature along with the beauty here in the Blue Ridge. Believe me, there is something missing in your life if you haven't picked and eaten Wild Mountain Berries.

Ten Dollar Pie

(This pie received its name because someone paid $10.00 for the recipe.)

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cream (or part milk & cream)
1 quart fruit

Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the cream. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pan. Pour in batter in pan. Cover with fruit. Batter will rise to the top as it bakes. Bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Serve hot or cold, plain or with cream.

"Poor Man's Pie"

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 stick margarine
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pint berries.

Melt butter in deep baking dish. Pour the batter made of 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder and milk. Have the fruit heated with extra sugar to taste. Pour over batter. Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 30 or 35 minutes or until done.