Naturalist’s Notebook: Yum! Berries! | Tennessee Aquarium

Raise your hand if you like STRAWBERRIES. Me too.

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in the house I live in now. I used to pick strawberries out in their field. When they passed away, my aunt and uncle lived here for 24 years. Over those years, the strawberry plants disappeared.

Now the place is mine. I brought plants from my old house and put them in the ground. They have done well. This morning, I ate the first ripe strawberry from my new garden, and it was good.

Raise your hand if you like BLUEBERRIES. I do too!

There is a blueberry cousin, a wild huckleberry, growing in my woods, but no blueberry bushes were here when I moved in. I dug up five bushes at the old place and moved them up here to the garden. I’ve babied them along, and they are loaded with berries as you can see in the photos. The little blueberries are still green now, but they will be ripe in two or three weeks. If the birds don’t eat all of them, I should have blueberries for my cereal or pancakes. Yum!

There are other types of berries you may not be quite as familiar with. If you have been reading my Naturalist’s Notebook blogs, you’ve heard of blackberries. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Tennessee’s spring cold spells called “small winters.” One of them is blackberry winter. It usually happens while blackberries are in bloom.

Blackberries and I go way back, too. There is an old-fashioned kind of pie called a cobbler. I love blackberry cobbler! Blackberry vines are covered in thorns, but when I was in elementary school, I’d come up here and brave the stickers to pick blackberries. I knew my mother or grandmother would turn them into a cobbler. There is nothing more delicious than vanilla ice cream on hot blackberry cobbler!

The blackberries are still on the property, and I will be out picking them and getting scratched up this summer. They will go into cobblers, or maybe we’ll make home-made jelly. Blackberry jelly is great on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I’m getting hungry just writing this blog!

As I’ve cleared the garden this spring, I found the low-growing vines of the dewberry, a blackberry cousin. While blackberries sometimes grow to five or six feet tall, dewberries creep along the ground. Their berries look and taste a lot like blackberries, but are often bigger and fatter. I decided to leave that part of the garden as a “dewberry reserve,” so I can harvest some this year. The white blooms look very much like blackberry flowers. I included a photo I took recently of a male Zabulon Skipper butterfly on a dewberry bloom.

There is one more type of berry we’ll discuss which most folks don’t know as well as strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries. The photo with this post that shows a small clump of bushes is elderberry. I was happy to find it here. These bushes are still young, but they grow quickly. Later this summer they will have large flat clusters of tiny white flowers that will become hundreds of small purplish-black berries. Elderberry is used in cough syrups and cold remedies, and the berries also make really tasty jelly.

If you and your parents like to garden, you might want to try growing some of the berries I’ve mentioned. You don’t need a large garden for some. Strawberries and dwarf blueberry bushes can be grown in a pot on an apartment balcony.

There is lots of information about gardening on the internet, including many great how-to videos. I invite you to go outside and get some dirt under your fingernails by planting something today. If you should grow your own, it could be a very berry summer!

Mr. Bill

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