One eventually comes to the realization that we now seem to gage the progression of summer according to the arrival of different fruits and vegetables. Color and calendar are synonymous. Such is the “biological clock” for most members of Restoration Farm. Lettuce, greens and strawberries characterize early June. Blueberries, eggplant and zucchini tint mid-July. In August we welcome brilliant heritage tomatoes the color of the rainbow and dark, ink-stained blackberries.
In the back of one’s mind is the idea that one must seize the moment, as that brief blast of color, crunch, juiciness and flavor is temporary, no matter how glorious.
The blackberries have signaled their imminent arrival for weeks, with hundreds of knotty red berries clinging to the bramble. One by one, they have darkened. When the word “Blackberries!” appears on the chalkboard at the distribution tent we descend on the fields to fill our baskets.
I encounter my friends Maria and Matthew in the berry patch. Maria is looking for the last remaining blueberries, and a few can still be found. We talk about how the berries might be transformed for a dessert or a recipe at our respective homes. We call it "farm talk" -- sweet dreams of meals still to come. Blueberry pancakes, grilled peaches with blackberries, or a blackberry focaccia.
Matthew is combing the blackberry bramble for dark clusters of fruit. It is an untamed patch of thorns, leaves, branches and berries. On each branch, it seems like just one single berry has ripened. It is meticulous work – picking one berry at a time – but heartening to know that the blackberries will continue to ripen for several weeks to come.
Nearby, several goats have wandered over from the historic village and are being wrangled by a farm hand. Two are black goats, distinctive, with a streak of wild abandon. A bit like the blackberries of late summer.
Blackberries conjure up memories of days past, romantic notions and even a touch of delectably dark cravings. This recipe for blackberry focaccia promises a host of such sensual pleasures.
It is a rustic temptation, dreamed up by British author Nigel Slater for his book “Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard.” Consumed warm from the oven, it is a sweet indulgence that captures a brief moment in time. Inhale the sweet aroma of yeast and savor the rich, jammy flavor of blackberries that melt into the hot, crusty bread, as summer will soon be a delicious memory.
©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved