We went on a hike looking for blueberries in one of our local parks. (The hybrids in my front yard are ripening.) We came home with half an ice cream pail of black caps instead. I should have known better. It is Black Raspberry (Black Caps) time in July. The wild blueberries won’t ripen until Late July or early August. (It’s a good thing that blueberries grow in the shade.)
When we were kids, the younger half of the family went camping at Camp Indianhead near Stone Lake, Wisconsin, for two weeks each summer. Dad would hitch up the Apache pop-up camper with it’s army surplus addition, blankets, and cots, and we would make the long trek north from Bensenville, Illinois (then only six miles from O’Hare Airport–now O’Hare’s runways take up more than a third of the town). Back then, there was no Interstate north of Augusta, Wisconsin—just two-lane highways and gravel roads
Eventually, my Dad bought a 80-acre tract of jack pine and poison ivy on the other side of the lake from the campground, built a tarpaper shack, and had a well drilled. Our two-week summer vacations at the “cabin” were hot and uneventful. I spent most of my time sweating, reading books, and avoiding poison ivy–relieved (if you will excuse the pun) by watching my brother dig privy pits in which to dump (sorry) the contents of our chemical toilet bucket.
The land wasn’t situated on the lake. It was located on the dump road that dead ended at a fire tower. Dad would sometimes load us all into the Ford van after dark and drive into the dump to watch the bears eating garbage. We were told that the meat of these bears tasted like the garbage they dined on so regularly.
It was along this dump road that I discovered wild black raspberries and the satisfaction of starting out with an empty pail and returning home with one that was full.
One of my favorite ways of eating black caps is sprinkled on buttered pancakes, the whole plate drizzled with warm maple syrup. (In this case, the maple syrup I boiled this spring.) My mother used to eat them bobbing in a bowl of milk. I thought that was gross at the time, but I now eat them regularly with my cereal and milk.
If you go seeking black raspberries, it is a good idea to wear jeans (I foolishly wear shorts and sport scratched legs most of the summer.), sturdy shoes, a hat to protect you from sun and flies, and bug repellent. A pail with a lid is best to gather the berries in and prevents spills on the hike home. Berry picking is a great frugal outing for a family. Kids love picking berries, although most of the berries they pick never make it as far as the pail! Begonia