Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Berry picking

Since we first moved here many, many people have mentioned berry picking. Almost daily the kids have asked when we can go raspberry picking and I have put it off over and over again. Today we had some time to kill and we were in town by a park where I had heard there were wild raspberries growing. We decided to go check it out. My hope was that we would quickly find one or two and call it a day. Madelyn would be able to say we picked berries and I would not be on the "bad mother" list in her eyes for avoiding berry picking once again.

But it is a little late in the season for raspberries. We looked and looked and did not find any. But then we found these really beautiful berries that looked just like blueberries. (But having picked blueberries before they were in a cluster like a grape -- not spread all over the bushes).

I squeezed them -- they were purply -- just like blueberries. I looked close at them, but even though they looked exactly like blueberries, the way they grew seemed odd. We watched as the birds went wild over them. I picked several bunches, grabbed the leaves, put them in a ziplock and figured I would google them later.

As we left the park, I rolled down my window and asked if these 2 ladies knew what they were. One replied, that she thought they were wild blueberries. The other gasped and said, "No, they are inedible and will stain everything purple!" I passed another person, rolled down the window and asked. This person said, "Maybe huckleberries???"

I called my Mom, she googled it. She found nothing.

I came home, searched and searched. I entered the leaf type and the berry type and searched all kinds of plant taxonomy sites and found nothing. In desperation, I decided to call the extension service. I looked up UCONN extension and called. This is the conversation.

"Hello, I am so and so at the UCONN extension service, How can I help you?" She answered.

"Hi, I just moved here to Connecticut and found these beautiful blue berries that look like blue berries, but don't grow individually, they grow kind of like grapes. Do you know what it is?"

"Does it have a reddish, purplish stem?" She asked.

"Yes." I said.

"It is pokeweed. And it is poisenous."

"Thanks! Bye"

I found pokeweed on wikipedia. Here is what it says.

"The eating of nonfatal quantities of poke, perhaps of the shoots, may cause retching or vomiting after two hours or more. These signs may be followed by dyspnea, perspiration, spasms, severe purging, prostration, tremors, watery diarrhea (often bloody) and, sometimes, convulsions. If a fatal quantity is eaten, perhaps including roots, the above signs are followed by paralysis of the respiratory organs and other narcotic effects, culminating in the death of the poisoned person."

Good thing we did not try them out!!!!! Hip Hip Hooray for the extension service which saved the day!

I don't know when we will go berry picking again, but Madelyn has already asked 4 times since this morning.


Kelli said...

I wonder why the birds can eat them? or is that a dumb question?

Marci said...

Close call! And you should go berry picking! When we lived in upstate New York when I was younger some of my best memories were berry picking and apple picking. Moving there from southern CA I felt like I was living in a movie out in the country :-)!

Amber said...

I just read a book with pokeweed in it. I think it was a juvenile fiction called "Fever 1793". Tyler just read it in school. Anyway. The name rung a bell. I'm glad you didn't eat them. Paralysis of the breathing parts of your body is usually bad :)

jimnjennie said...

I could have told you it was polk salad, and people in the south eat it, but not the berries.