Environmental Reads

Black Cap Berry Pie

After reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants chapters from the “Planting Sweetgrass” and “Tending Sweetgrass” sections, we were asked to reflect upon some nature experiences we’ve had and write about them in whatever format we chose.

I’m sad to say that it was a bit hard to think of a solid memory of a nature experience. I spent loads of time outdoors as a kid, but it’s been a while since I was just outside for the sake of being outside, enjoying and experiencing the world around me. So instead, I dove deep for a memory of one of my favorite summer activities: making black cap berry pie from scratch using berries picked from wild bushes in our yard.

We had a dozen or so black cap berry bushes on our property that we never tended, but that still managed to provide fruit every year. As soon as we saw the colors peaking out from under the leaves, my siblings and I would spend all of our outside hours in the bushes eating berries right off the bush. I remember coming in at night with faces, hands, and clothes smeared with berry juice, and my mom laughing at us for trying to cover it up.

One summer when I was about 12 years old, I got the idea to make a pie. I picked about as many berries for the pie as I ate that day, and then set to work making the pie. Only–I had never made a pie from scratch before. So when I mixed flour and water until I made a paste that looked like crust, and when I just plopped the berries in my ‘crust’ and put it in the oven, I didn’t use sugar and I didn’t cook off the berries first to reduce them. I just thought that berries in pie crust equaled a pie.


I failed spectacularly. The pie was inedible. No amount of ice cream would save it. So we left it out in hopes that the deer would eat it and I didn’t reattempt it. Instead, I laid out in the sun for the rest of the berry season and kept eating the berries right off the bush. My failed attempt at making the pie gave me a better appreciation of the fresh fruit in it’s natural form. It’s still one of my fondest memories of time spent outdoors as a kid.

This post meets the requirements of assignment number nine for the Fall 2020 session of ESS210 at Drew University.

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