There is something magical about searching for something elusive in a way that you have never done before. If you are searching for your keys, for some a daily ritual, there can be that one magical day where you really do know where they are; exactly where they are supposed to be which is unusual in and of itself. For someone who loves knowing where things are, labeling boxes, bags and totes with its contents, hunting for things really isnt a fun thing for me. My keys are always in the same place from years of issues with ‘losing them’ (I kept them in the door while at home in college and hung them from the wall beside the door when I shut it to go to bed), my sock yarn has its own box as do the odds and ends, spare balls and sweaters worth of yarns. Roving has its place, WIPs are in the living room and there is always a sock in my top desk drawer. Dog snacks are on top of the fridge and I can tell you where any item in my chest freezer is if I have it. Clothes are organised, each type to their own drawer (but socks remain unmatched in the drawer 🙂 ) and all dishes have their place. Its crazy orderly underneath the layer of messy and that layer of mess is really shallow. I dont generally have to ‘hunt’ for anything and I like it that way.
The berries are ripening here. Yes, it IS September but when you have so few sunny, warm (ish) days, it takes ALL summer to ripen those wild berries. Wine berries are dark, merlot coloured and have a light, sweet almost dusty flavour that is completely opposite of what you expect on first bite. Crow berries are barely visable, 5mm black berries that are so sour that *I* dont even want to eat them. You have to make them into jam, jelly or pie filling which, while yummy, takes a lot of sugar and is far from my favourite thing to eat. Blueberries are hard to find out here in the sand but just outside of Anchorage, they are fun to gather, if a bit hard on your back and knees. Bog Cranberries are fantastic dried and only barely remind you of Thanksgiving in the summer but once dried, their flavour concentrates and you can only wish for turkey to savor alongside. All these berries are low bush which means they grow between 0-3″ above the ground. Yes, 0″ is correct because my last successful hunt was for a berry that vines out along the sandy ground and then hides its fruit in dense patches of leaves just barely above the flat of the dunes. Wild Strawberries.
I have fond memories of strawberry picking in Michigan with my Mum and Sister and friends in a field where there is now a subdivision and a mall. Hot sun beating down, sweaty t-shirts, huge berries and long rows to lug flats along. Eating one or 5 for every one in the basket and then weighing the flat before bringing it home to hull and make jam. Yes, that is my memory and its a good thing too because that is not what its like here.
On the tundra, its a hunt. The bushes do grow in clumps and that is the only ease you are given by Mother Nature. The bushes are so low the the ground, many of the berries are actually growing into the sand. The leaves are so dense that you have to move each and every leaf to see if there are strawberries underneath because, despite their bright red shining against the black sand and green leaves, they are devilishly hard to find. And all this hunting is done wearing jeans, sweatshirt/sweater, and knit hat because not only is it chilly (50 F) but the wind is blowing at 25knots and there is misty rain driving into you. Hunting and gathering for over 3 hours in the best spot in town and you can have a gallon bag of strawberries too! Why so little? Because the fruit is less than 10mm long. Why go through all this work and clothing to have a gallon of strawberries? A sweeter, more intense flavour I have yet to find in nature. There is nothing that compares to the intense, smack upside the head of flavor that you get when you taste a wild strawberry and that my friends is worth every moment of hunting.