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Booty

Next to our building there is a single detached house which has a lovely, lush garden. A couple in their 60s live there and until a couple of days ago I had never had a conversation with either of them – our interaction had been limited to a passing greeting. However, two days ago I happened to run into the woman outside and she very generously invited me to come over and pick some red currants from her garden: “There’s such a lot and I hate to see them go to waste.”

See, late summer here in Iceland is all about berries. They grow wild, and they grow in people’s gardens. The wild ones are mostly limited to two [or three] varieties – two types of blueberries, and crowberries. Indeed, one of the main outdoor recreation activities enjoyed by families around this time is going to a “berjamó” – literally translated “a berry field” – with hot coffee or chocolate in a thermos, packed sandwiches, and lots of containers for picking berries.

It’s one of my favourite seasonal activities – but alas, this year I haven’t had the opportunity to go when the weather has been nice, and when I’ve had the opportunity it has been raining. You see, I have a secret location that only a few people know about … and no, I’m not tellin’ where it is. It’s such a delight to spend an hour or two picking wild blueberries, and then taking them home and eating with skyr, or fruit salad, or even preserving them as jelly or concentrated juice.

Anyway, thanks to my neighbour, I won’t have to go without my seasonal berries this year even if I don’t make it out to a berjamó. EPI and I went over there this afternoon and I was AMAZED to see not just the ubiquitous red currants but also black currants AND huckleberries gooseberries, which I understand are fairly rare in Niceland. The first two varieties were weighing down the bushes in heavy clusters, especially the red ones, and even after we’d picked and picked, it seemed we’d barely made a dent.

Behold, the spoils from our raid:

Red currants

Red currants

Black currants

Blackcurrants

Huckleberries

Huckleberries Gooseberries

Apparently when you make jams and preserves you should include the leaves and stems, which act as a natural gelatine. Guess who’s got her work cut out this weekend!

BERRIES ALSO MEAN A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
Weatherman sez we’re in for our first autumn storm tonight, which will be exciting. Bolt down your trash bins, that sort of thing. It’s also getting dark a lot sooner now, which means cuddling inside with candles lit. It’s been pouring down rain for most of the day, though with occasional dry spells, and we now have11°C [52F]. The sun came up at 5:59 am and set at 8:56 pm.

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  • Dagný Ásta August 28, 2008, 11:25 pm

    sniðugt!
    Ég er búin að lesa bloggið þitt í lengri tíma og er að komast að því hver þú ert *haha* vonandi nutuð þið góðs af berjunum 😉 gott að sjá að sonur minn var ekki búinn að borða þau öll.

    kveðja
    Dagný Ásta

  • alda August 28, 2008, 11:48 pm

    Nei, þetta er OF fyndið!
    Lítill heimur!!
    Já, þetta var dásamlegt alveg hreint … við eigum nú eftir að eiga við berin um helgina og ég hlakka mikið til að fá sultu og annað góðgæti út úr þeim. Ekkert smá almennilegt af mömmu þinni að bjóða okkur þetta!

  • Dagný Ásta August 28, 2008, 11:57 pm

    hehe, án gríns þá held ég að hún sé fegnust því að einhver sé tilbúinn til þess að nýta þau – sömuleiðis rabarbarann 🙂 Veit fyrir víst að ef ykkur langar í meira þá eru þið pottþétt velkomin í garðinn aftur.

  • alda August 29, 2008, 12:17 am

    Gott að vita!

  • andrea August 29, 2008, 12:47 am

    I wait all year for 6 weeks of blueberries on my morning cereal. It’s almost over! 🙁

  • Jessie August 29, 2008, 12:59 am

    Beautiful! And what a treat it is to have kind neighbors. 🙂

  • Keera August 29, 2008, 8:48 am

    Er, those aren’t huckleberries. Those are gooseberries. Huckleberries are often mistaken for blueberries, hence the “huckle” name (huckle = trick). If the crowberries are white inside, then you have helped me find the English name for what we call “blokkebær” in Norway.

    The three berries you picked I used to pick, too, as a child. People no longer keep cultivated berry bushes in their gardens, so those berry types are going out of style here in Norway. A shame, really. They are so healthy and tasty.

  • Kate August 29, 2008, 8:55 am

    Berry feast on the lava rock!!! Amazing!

  • hildigunnur August 29, 2008, 9:16 am

    The misunderstanding about the huckleberries stems from the translation of Huckleberry Finn, Stikilsberja-Finnur in Icelandic, huckleberry is a type of wild blueberry. Suppose the translator thought Bláberja-Finnur sounded stupid 😀

    Might have to put some gelatin in the redcurrant jelly, as you normally pick a third of the berries green, and there are none left of those.

    We’ve got some huge redcurrant bushes and one blackcurrant bush in the garden. Make jelly and redcurrant chicken (sorry it’s in Icelandic), also just pick ripe berries to freeze down to be used in smoothies and pies. We managed one trip to our secret blueberry spot in Grafningur before the weather got worse. Went to Heiðmörk, loads of berries but way smaller than in Grafningur.

    I love autumn – even though it means back to teaching 😀

  • alda August 29, 2008, 10:58 am

    andrea – mmm. I’m hoping our bad-weather spell blows over soon so I can get out there to pick some blueberries.

    Jessie – indeed!

    Keera – thank you for the correction! Yes, it’s precisely as Hildigunnur surmised … I made the error because of the Icelandic translation of Huckleberry Finn. Off to make the correction now. – oh, and crowberries are small and black and seedy. Not white inside. “Krækiber” in Icelandic.

    Kate – mmm.

    Hildigunnur – I also think I’m going to have to get some extra gelatin. And thanks for the recipe … off to look at it as soon as I’ve made the correction. :o)

  • Djaddi August 29, 2008, 11:20 am

    I just got into this this summer.. It’s a great thing :). Although I’ve picked at random times, and never in large amounts.
    Crowberries are everywhere, and mixing their juice with plain skyr (and a tiny bit of sugar) is my favorite Skyr now, much better that the pre-mixed ones available at the supermarket (too sugary..).

    Oh, and Ásbyrgi had really good blueberries :). But it’s a bit far from here.

    So.. you’re not telling where you pick? 🙂

  • Valerie in San Diego August 29, 2008, 2:25 pm

    Ooh, the berries sound lovely and I’m envious. Though many things grow in San Diego, berries are hard — not enough chill factor. The best we can do is a specially hybridized blueberry. So your berry loot is, indeed, impressive and I’m all about the jam, too. Have fun and show us pictures if you do make jam — they will be so pretty!

  • RK in Los Angeles August 29, 2008, 5:19 pm

    Ooohhhh I miss black currants sooo much! And crowberries, which are great for cooking game and I miss every holiday season here for that reason. We had red currants growing in our garden when I was little and the neighbor had black currants that I used to snack on way to school those first days of fall and school.

    I can buy red currants at the store here although its not the same as going out to pick them in your back yard (or from the neighbors – even more fun 😉 I also havent made jam for a long time. Now Im homesick. Happy jam making this weekend Alda!

  • Valerie August 29, 2008, 9:29 pm

    (Oh, I guess I should call myself Valerie in Ojai then! Two Valeries from California reading your blog…!)
    Thanks for this. I’m from the UK and got all nostalgic about berry picking- strawberries in July and blackberries in August, I think it was. It’s blowing a hot Santa Ana wind from the desert today and autumn is pretty non-existent here. Blech…

  • Liz@Inventing My Life August 29, 2008, 11:49 pm

    When I was growing up, my grandmother had a gooseberry bush in her backyard…thanks for bringing back happy memories of eating gooseberries right off the bush in the summer!

  • alda August 30, 2008, 12:05 am

    Djaddi – Ásbyrgi! One of the most beautiful places on earth – not surprised they have good blueberries there. And no way – not telling where my secret place is! But I happen to know Þingvellir is good …

    Valerie – yes, I guess you have to have a certain amount of chill. Still, I wouldn’t mind some of your heat … at least right now.

    RK – lovely … nostalgia. Yes, late summer berries are such a delight here. I have very happy childhood memories of my grandparents’ garden, too. Red currants and strawberries. Mmm.

    Valerie – oh, one can never have enough Valeries reading one’s blog! 🙂 Blackberries don’t grow wild here, but I remember them from the European continent. Eating them directly off the bushes. Fabulous.

    Liz – you’re welcome!

  • Keera August 30, 2008, 3:22 pm

    The Norwegian name for crowberry isn’t far from the Icelandic: krekling or krykkjebær. Those I haven’t eaten. Thanks to Latin, I was able to find out that “blokkebær” is bilberry in English. I’m getting an education!

  • Rozanne August 30, 2008, 4:27 pm

    So pretty. How interesting to know that leaves and stems will act as a natural gelatin. Be sure to blog (or at least post some photos) about the preserves you make!

  • Lora August 30, 2008, 9:59 pm

    Oh, you have absolutely wonderful neighbours! How lucky!
    I’m feeling quite jealous now. All I can find growing here in Portugal are wild blackberries. I haven’t eaten blueberries in over 6 years. 🙁

  • maja September 3, 2008, 5:10 am

    YUMMY YUM YUM!