A Czech classic pick of berries
Czechs love to pick anything and on anyone. That’s what I like about the legacy of my predecessors.
I have fond memories of picking currant as a child along with my brother Vas in my uncles’ garden in the Moravian town of Vizovice. The summers were hot, and the small berries were ripe right around mid July. We spent all our summer breaks at grandma and grandpa’s house.
“You have to go and pick currant for the pie,” said grandma Ann.
“But, we don’t want to,” we both whined. “It’s just too hot.”
There was no fooling about it. We had to go, if we wanted to eat. We crawled up the hill to uncles’ garden. The bushes were huge. We each had a pale, and whenever I wasn’t watching, Vas stole the small berries from my pale and put it in his. I slapped him on his hand. I was sweating like a pig.
“What are you doing, pick your own,” I was upset.
I wanted to go out on the street Krnovska and play with the rest of the gang. The tiny berries were getting on my nerves. They were sour, and they left red stains on my shirt.
To make things worse, my brother kicked my pale and the berries rolled into the grass.
“You fool,” I slapped him again.
We started fighting in the heat of the day. I could hear from the cellar just a few feet away, the berries in a barrel fermenting. Not only did the family bake and cook using currant, the uncles also made currant wine. When I got married a few years later, I was surprised that my mother-in-law Julie also made currant wine.
“You make that too?” I asked annoyed. “Who picks the currant?”
“You will,” she laughed. “Luda said you love to do that.”
We grew three types of currant, the most common red, black and white. We also had gooseberries; bizarre looking greenish white fuzzy berries that were used for making fruit cocktail along with apples.
There’s a saying that Czechs love to pick just about anything. I am beginning to believe that. Every year, my mom and dad go picking blueberries on the farms in West Michigan near Holland and Muskegon. As a child, mom too was forced to pick wild blueberries in the woods near Vizovice. Now, she loves to pick them, and makes tons of products from blueberries.
When I couldn’t find currant in the stores here in US, I planted a red currant bush of my own some six years ago. This year, I added a black currant bush. As I meticulously picked the red berries sweating in the July heat, I thought about my childhood. I could even smell the old sweat of yesteryear along with the new one. There’s always something that we like to bring back from the past; something that somehow keeps us connected.
Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova