Occasionally, summers when we were kids, we'd be tooling along in the car on a Sunday ride. We kids would be in the backseat, bickering or singing. Dad would be driving, minding his own business, and mom would be scanning the roadside trees and bushes for a glint of red berries....and then she'd shout, "Chokecherries!!"
She'd have immediate opposition from the whole crew, but she always won by mentioning jelly for toast we'd only have if we picked "just for 15 minutes".
(Truthfully, I don't recall this happening very often, but it's become a family story ☺. There were mosquitoes and gnats in the woods, and poison ivy. Even in the 50s, there were barbed-wire fences to cross..plus, we had nothing along to pick berries into unless we planned to pick berries, ya know?)
But, it looks like the desire to pick free fruit is natural and maybe even ancestral. Here's what Su wrote this week as she continues to read the village chronicles of Cimer. I've only shortened it a little ☺:
Now here's a further little insight into our ancestor's lives as revealed by the Schamers Gedenbuch. Look at the google earth images for 'our' area of Southern Bohemia and you will see that even today it is still very heavily forested. What was out in those woods (apart from trees and the impressive Capercaillie) ? Berries and fungi! Herr Schemeczek, writing in the 1930s about then current conditions and immediately before and after the First World War records that collecting wild fruit and mushrooms was economically significant to the villagers....If it was useful in the 1930s....I think we can reasonably assume that our ancestors were out there busily collecting whatever was available for free. I suspect that they probably picked for themselves, both to eat fresh or to preserve in some way such as drying or steeping in brandy or some sort of alcohol, or turn into jam if they could afford the sugar.
Herr Schemeczek (page 91 image 48 of the Schamers Gedenbuch) says that they collected all sorts of good things: Heidelbeeren/Blueberries, Preißelbeeren/Cranberries, Himberren/Raspberries, Pfifferlinge/Chanterelle, Birkenpilze/birch fungus, Reizker/Saffron milk cap and Herrenpilze/Gentleman's mushrooms. Herrenpilze is the Austrian-German name for the Boletus edulis, Penny bun/Ceps/Porcini - I don't know what you call it or even if it grows in the States. Berries are very fragile and would not have travelled well in the days of horse and cart but by the First World War there were berry dealers who sent them by cart to Neuhaus where they were loaded onto trains and sent as far afield as Dresden. He says that in 1930 the Berry Trade brought a lot of money to the people. The Schamers grocery store owner, Herr Kollman, paid out a daily high season average of 5,000. -Kč for blueberries.
Maybe there were berry harvesting picnics. I hope so. I have visions of children with purple-stained mouths and hands having a happy day out in the country with the adults enjoying a change of scenery although probably working just as hard as usual. When they got home in the evening, tired, maybe sunburnt, the women would have to be busy straight away dealing with all those delicate delicious fruits before they went mouldy. Mushrooms play a significant part in Czech and Austrian cuisine as do berries as sauces for sweet and savoury dishes and from what I've read on the web, mushroom and berry picking are still a very popular pastime with Czech folk from all backgrounds".
(BTW, I never realized the difference in terrain between the Hesch villages (upper left on the satellite view above), and the Cimer area (lower right). Cimer (Schamers) is much more heavily wooded. Wow!)
(BTW x2--The rest of Su's email talked about traditional recipes prepared in her husbands' family...but only sausage and sauerkraut was familiar to me. Wonder what's with that? Probably another post...lol)
THANKS for all this, Su!!