If you’re not a fan of intermittent gratuitous bad language, probably best you skip this post and come back tomorrow. Although that would be cock-sucking shame. There are legitimate folkloric reasons for such profanities, but you’ll need to read to the end to find out what they are.
Anyhow, I got up early and headed off to pick some blackberries and their leaves. Blackberries are one the few things I’m confident recognising in the wild as I’ve been picking them since I was knee high. My reasons for picking them were: they are in season, they are delicious, it’s said if I waited until the end of August they’d be poisoned by witches, and I thought I’d use the leaves to make some motherfucking tea.
Unlike with the rowan, this time I dressed appropriately in jeans, socks, shoes and I brought with me a pair of scissors and a yellow rubber Marigold in case I needed to clutch at anything thorny (I didn’t). On opening the car door, I was bollock-walloped by the smell of ripe fruit. And for the next twenty minutes I raided the hedgerows of this quiet lane just off the A27 uninterrupted except for a couple of beardsplitting Sunday cyclists. Some berries were so ripe, all I had to do was tickle their undercarriage and they dropped into my box.
I may have eaten an ant, and quite possibly a money spider or two, but the majority of the berries and their wanking passengers were gathered, not masticated. After trying a pinching technique with the leaves, I resorted to using the scissors as they were prickly sods. And when the box was weighty, and it felt greedy continuing, I got back in the car and headed home. I may now have ants in the car.
After separating the berries from the leaves and re-homing the caterpillars and other creepy crawlies, I went at the leaves with a rolling pin. I was spectacularly ineffective. So I turned the leaves, piled them up, and went at them again using all my body weight to press down. No visible change. I carried on with this routine until I my newly sterilised son of a bitch pickle jar was cool enough to shove them in.
They are now fermenting on my car dashboard (not my idea but I’m happy to go with it), and will be for the next six weeks. Which is good as I have no real need at the moment for blackberry leaf tea which is said to alleviate mouth ulcers, sore gums, sore throats, and dodgy stomachs. And, as Culpeper puts it, sore ‘secret parts’ (p.38). But it’s always good to have something up your sleeve just in case.
The beans are no more, long live the beans. I finally did away with the bastard bean plants after all the leaves had either turned brown or fallen off. I gave a small yip when I de-podded my first one. I don’t know quite what I’d been expecting, but my kidney bean was perfect. And so were the following two. The other pods look too green so I’ll leave them for a bit. I know I’m running at a deficit of five beans planted, three beans harvested but the unutterable pleasure I felt seeing that first bean was fucking awesome.
And as for the bad language? It’s the first Sunday after Old Lammas and therefore St Lhuany’s Day. And on St Lhuany’s Day in the Isle of Man, it’s customary to be rude and unruly. But as I’m not quite up for their traditional hill top orgy, I made do with a touch of execration instead. Now bugger the fuck off, I’ve got some goddamn gooseberry gin to slam.
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Culpeper (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, Ware, Wordsworth Editions Ltd
Nozedar, A. (2012) The Hedgerow Handbook, Recipes, Remedies and Rituals, London, Square Peg
Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Wright, J. (2020) The Forager’s Calendar, A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests, London, Profile Books Ltd