Most trees have dropped their leaves by now, just like most herbaceous plants have shrunken into their winter form, which can make nature seem a little dull and grey. But don’t let yourself be fooled! There is plenty of beauty still to be found. Berries for example. Right now, they are everywhere!
With other food sources declining in autumn, berries play a major role in the diets of a lot of animals right now. Especially birds and rodents are hugely dependent on these shiny little things. Packed with nutrients, they offer just what is needed at this time of the year. To enjoy some of these nutrients yourself, try my Cranberry Pear Compote.
The plants, on the other hand, are very happy with the birds and rodents eating their fruits. It is an ideal means of seed dispersal, and with that increases the amount of offspring of the plant. To maximize their profits, over thousands of years, plants have developed colourful berries that are easy to recognize for potential eaters. So even when a lot of berries are not edible for us, we can still enjoy their beautiful colours!
One of the berry forming plants that are quite common in gardens in the Netherlands, is the “snowberry” (Symphoricarpos albus)(See picture below). When you pick such a berry and very delicately pop it under your shoe, it will make a sort of “piek” sound. When we were very young, my best friend and me used to do that a lot, and we termed it “piekeren”, referring to the sound. Unfortunately, in Dutch, “piekeren” also means to worry. So when I, aged four, proudly announced to my grandma that my friend and I would go and “pieker”, you can imagine the astonishment on her face! (Luckily, my mom rushed to explain we were not really going to spend hours worrying about things.)
Enjoy the Colours
Maybe you want to give “piekeren” a try, which I do recommend with little kids. And if not, there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy the beauty of berries everywhere. When you are going out this weekend, pay attention to those small gems. You could try to see how many different berries you can find, of if you recognize the plants. Or just enjoy them as you go along.
Have fun looking for berries this weekend!