Monday, 19 September 2011

The New War in the Woods

I wrote a news story many years ago about a phenomenon called "guerilla gardening," which involved well-meaning and undoubtedly well-equipped gardeners who would apply their talents to public spaces that had been overlooked by the city's limited landscaping staff and budget.

As I hack my way through a tangly jungle that some owner at some time must have thought would make a nice garden, it dawns on me that "guerilla" is quite a misnomer when talking about dropping a few sunflowers in a traffic circle. As a gang of raspberry bushes and thistles claw at me and jeer at the pathetic skiff of berries barely covering the bottom of my bowl, I realize that this is a war and I'm not the United States. I'm not even France.

For example, I don't have garden gloves, a layer of delicately flowered cotton to protect my manicured hands from the soil. In my defence, I don't think they would last long out here in the trenches of the dandelion farm, where the plant life must have long ago given up on human intervention and has since developed its own defences against the deer. By defences I mean long, spiky thorns akin to pirhana teeth or prison shanks. Gardening gloves! Please. Hockey gloves, now that would be more like it.

I also don't have pruning shears and, apparently, neither did the people who owned this place before me. Or the ones before that.

And although they're not common stock in a garden shop, I could use a hard hat and chain saw as I battle my way through the raspberry forest.

An hour, about a thousands scratches and puncture wounds, and a couple pints of blood later, I have a quart of raspberries and emerge from the garden leaning slightly toward the hate side in my love-hate relationship with Nature.

As tempting as it is to collapse into the hammock and reward my hard work by downing a quart of fresh raspberries, I stick to the plan to can the berries so I'll have them to enjoy as the snow flies this winter.

My mother, despite decades of dedicated refusal to relive her childhood with these kind of tedious farm chores, is a fount of knowledge on canning. Forgive me, Mom, if I'm wrong but I'm pretty certain that in the 38 years of our acquaintance I have NEVER seen you sterilizing canning jars or processing berries, vegetables or food products of any kind for canning. But I follow her instructions, and voila! Several very tiny jars of raspberry coulis that I hope don't mould by January.

Pearl's Next-to-Fresh Raspberries:

Bring one cup sugar and one cup water to a boil to make a light syrup. Add raspberries and cook until raspberries break down and liquid reduces to a syrup consistency. Sugar to taste.

Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water. Fill jars, leaving room at the top, and tighten lids to hand tight.

Immerse sealed jars in boiling water, making sure they are totally emersed, and boil for at least 20 minutes. Do not set the jars on the bottom of the boiling pot - if you don't have a canning pot then line the bottom of the pot with spare jar lids and set the jars on those.

Remove from heat and let cool. You'll hear a "pop" if the jars seal properly.

1 comment:

  1. The "popping" is the best part!Your jars look delicious!