Archive for May, 2012

pink lady’s slippers

Since I mentioned lady’s slippers recently, I am posting a photo of some pink lady’s slippers that I took a few days ago.

Today however, we are talking about berries. When I was a girl we picked lots of berries in summer. There were two kinds that Grandma and Mama canned: blackberries and buckberries. The best blackberries were up here at Toxaway in the lake bed. We’d ride up here from Quebec on the back of Grandpa’s T-hound (an A-Model Ford truck) and pick buckets of the fattest blackberries you ever saw. I always said they were as big as hen’s eggs, and they were sure enough as big as banty eggs. For you town folks, banties are small chickens (bantams.)

buckberry flowers and tiny green berries

The other kind of berries we picked were buckberries. We had such an abundance of buckberries right there at Quebec there was no need to go anywhere else for them. Grandma’s house was right at the foot of Tom Lyman Mountain. Tom Lyman Galloway was  brother to my great grandma Parilee McCall. By that time he was dead, so I never knew him, nor did he ever have a home on the mountain that bore his name. We’d leave out after breakfast and go up on Tom Lyman’s mountain, carrying several peck buckets, which we quickly filled with buckberries. By dinnertime (somewhere between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m.) the buckets would be running over and we’d be on our way home.

buckberries a.k.a. bear huckleberries

Both berries are good eating, having a bit of a tart taste, but the buckberry is simply delicious.  Its texture is similar to that of a blueberry, but the flavor is far superior, spicy and sweet-tart. Buckberries are shiny black at maturity and about the size of cultivated blueberries. They are a little larger than wild blueberries in areas where the soil is rich. The leaves of the two plants differ somewhat, but not much. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the color of the fruit. Also, if you will notice, the ripe blueberry has a little frill on the end; the buckberry has a little circle, but no frill.

The photo of the ripe berries was taken by Graham Sexton. I have lost my source information; I think it came from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed for re-use, but I could not find it in a recent search of that site. My apologies, Mr. Sexton, if I am infringing. The other photos were taken here at our place at Toxaway.

The buckberry is also known as the bear huckleberry. Its distribution is limited to the southern Appalachians, namely North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and maybe Virginia.  Buckberries grow as understory plants in the forests of these areas. Where they get a fair amount of sunshine, they produce well. However in our area, most of the timber has been allowed to mature and the shade has discouraged the production of berries. The bushes are plentiful, but nowadays berries are few and far between.

Which is a shame. Not even a wild strawberry can compete with the buckberry for flavor!


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