Blackberries are flowering, we’ve gotten a basket or two of strawberries from our yard, and Skinny Kitty Farms has given us pints of raspberries in our farm share, which were eaten immediately. The season of berries is here!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to the book I review. I did not receive any compensation or freebies for writing this review.
In Ten Acres Enough, the Classic 1864 Guide to Independent Farming, Edmund Morris, a Philadelphia merchant, chronicles his move from the big city (at the time) to the countryside of New Jersey (still more rural than you think!). He describes, in bubbly, optimistic prose, the trials and brilliant successes he has as a farmer, including his discovery of how fast blackberries can grow and how much people will pay for a little box of them.
You can hear him salivating at the thought of what profits he could earn if he planted acres of blackberry, and his pride at making back almost 100 times his initial investment in plants by selling starts to his neighbors. So that’s how blackberry “invaded” all our yards!
History of the Berry Box
Today I wanted to write about the boxes that Edmund Morris mentioned. In 1864, they didn’t have little plastic boxes for berries, and he says keeping enough reusable boxes (made in France!) in stock is expensive and difficult. He urges the timber industry to start making wood shaving boxes “cheap enough to be thrown away,” citing that they would also have the advantage of always being “clean and sweet.”
Now, of course, we have paperboard cartons and the plastic “clamshell” ones, and while the cost in dollars or cents is probably just a fraction of what the berries are sold for, the cost to the environment is not negligible. (But at least we are not making them out of virgin wood anymore!) That’s one reason why it’s so nice to see berries go from our backyard bushes to the toddler’s mouth so directly. But there are other ways to reduce the environmental impact as well.
Berries the #ZeroWaste Way
In Hungary, the growers just bring big piles of fruit to the open-air market and have one container for measuring. They measure your pint or whatever into a plastic bag or into a container you provide. I brought my own containers to the Lake City Farmer’s Market last week, and the vendors were happy to dump their berries into them and keep their own containers.
If you’re really hardcore, you could learn to make bark berry baskets, though I wouldn’t strip any public trees for this purpose. Harvesting the abundance of the excess disposables all around us is much easier.
I saved so many containers this year that they were making a big mess of my cabinets, so today I thought I’d pass most of them on to neighbors in my Buy Nothing group. Already someone has claimed the green paperboard ones. I also brought some when we went blueberry picking recently and avoided bringing home any new trash. I even had enough to give little baskets of blueberries to several neighbors. Cabinet clutter is the downside, but on balance I think it’s worth saving these containers for re-use.
If you have yet to taste the fruits of this season, stay tuned – I’ll be posting the best places to munch free blackberries in Seattle when they are ripe for the picking.
Summary of #ZeroWaste Berry Tips:
- Save your containers to give to neighbors or use for U-Pick
- Bring your own containers to the farmer’s markets
- Grow your own berries, or at least learn to identify the blackberry that’s probably already sprouting along your paths.
- Pick berries in public parks and elsewhere: stay tuned for tips!