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Blackberry Pickin’ With Shasta


2014/07/03


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

At our farm, the Fourth of July traditionally kicks off blackberry picking season, which continues through July until the berries are exhausted. The holiday is a fine time to grab a bucket and go on a blackberry picking trail ride.

We had a horse in our family for many years who was the ideal bareback ride: Shasta. She was half Quarter Horse and half Mustang, so had the calm temperament mixed with a fierce streak of independence and a touch of “wildness” that never totally succumbed to human-imposed discipline. Shasta was built for comfort, but also had some speed when needed. She had a broad round back with her own built in knee rolls, but not so round so that a saddle would not stay comfortably in place. She rode as well in a halter and lead rope as with a snaffle bridle – either way she was in control of the speed when she wanted to be.

Shasta was also the ideal berry picking horse. At 15 hands, it was easy to reach the berries on the vine from her back and she was happy to stand quite still as we picked – because she was picking her own, too! She had a knack for picking the berries without getting stabbed by the “stickers,” something we humans could not totally avoid. But it was easiest for her just to grab a bite out of the bucket of berries we had already picked.

We never worried about colic or digestive problems when Shasta ate blackberries. She probably never got enough to cause any “upset,” as we did our best to keep her out of our bucket of picked berries. With a little research, we have found, as Shasta showed us, that blackberries are not harmful to horses, eaten in moderation. Even Rutgers University has collected and published information about “Odd Things that Horses eat” (by Sarah L. Ralston, VMD, PhD, dACVN, Associate Professor, Department of Animal Sciences)[1]. On the list of those causing “No problem, assuming fairly limited quantities and otherwise balanced ration” are blackberries.

So you might want to take advantage of the opportunity in July to enjoy fresh picked blackberries with your favorite steed. And if you have enough left over, here’s a recipe for my favorite dessert, blackberry cobbler. Enjoy!

ARKANSAS BLACKBERRY COBBLER

From Danette Watkins, Lepanto, Arkansas

Published in Gracious Goodness cookbook

“Best when you grow your own blackberries and have had the fun of picking them.”

3 cups fresh blackberries
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, sliced

Place fruit in unbaked 9-inch processor pastry shell and sprinkle with vanilla. Mix sugar with flour, pour over fruit, and top with butter. Cut remaining pastry into strips and arrange over fruit. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until slightly browned.

Processor Pastry
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cold butter
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Briefly mix flour and butter in food processor. Add ice water and process until dough forms a ball. Chill several minutes before using. Recipe must be doubled for cobbler. Serves 6
 


[1] Ralston, Sarah L. Ph.D., daCVN, Associate Professor, Dept. of Animal Sciences. “Odd Things that Horses Eat.” Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS062. http://www.esc.rutgers.edu/publications/PDF_Files/fs062.pdf


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