Written by Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
As a child I picked wild blackberries with my grandmother. We both wore bonnets and long aprons for protection. Looking back, I smile, as I cannot imagine a farm kid today wearing such old fashioned attire. But I am glad that I have such a vivid memory of mine.
Picking berries is no longer a romantic notion for me. I am happy to leave the berry picking to Petals From the Past. I have loved Petals From the Past blueberries for longer than I can recall and discovered Petals From the Past’s blackberries several years ago at the former Tria Market. The enormous blackberries are juicy, with thin skins and no grittiness. The plump blueberries have lovely, thin skins and are bursting with sweetness. I even refuse to travel extensively during these blackberries’ season each year for fear of loss. I did it once and came back to realize I would have to wait another year for my berries to come back in season. Blackberry season is from early June until early July. But blueberries have a longer season, mid June until late August. Best of all is the precious time when they are both in season at the same time, from mid June through the first few days of July.
Petals From the Past is located in Jemison, Alabama. Owners Jason and Shelley Powell, both horticulturalists with masters degrees from Texas A&M University, apply contemporary techniques to grow the finest old-garden plants as well as new varieties. They taught me to feed my blackberry addiction by freezing batches for the off-season. Here’s Petals From the Past’s technique for freezing blackberries: Place one layer of berries, unwashed, on a cookie sheet without touching. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then bag the berries in freezer bags. Thaw each bag as needed, and rinse before eating or cooking. The frozen berries are almost as delicious as fresh and make great fruit for breakfasts and winter cobblers. Today, I am in high cotton with several bags left in the freezer from last season and quarts of fresh ones in the refrigerator from this season.
For those who prefer to pick their berries you can do so in their “U-Pick” berry fields. They also have a retail store there where you can buy berries and other products, including their jams and jellies, that is open Tuesdays through Sundays. And they are found at Pepper Place Market on Saturdays, on the corner with a smaller sign that says, “We do not sell GMOs.” And they are the crown dessert jewels at many of Birmingham’s finest restaurants.
Visit their online store at PetalsFromThe Past.com. While visiting their website, check out the variety of workshops and educational offerings. They conduct programs for garden clubs and groups of 10 or more. All workshops, lectures, and demonstrations require advanced scheduling. For reservations or to find out more information please call the retail shop at 205-646-0069.