By Joe Rector
The week brought warm weather; in fact, it was downright hot. Mother’s Day weekend found my family in the pool and cooling our heels and enjoying each other’s company. Anyone who was outside and who had a nose could smell the sweet scents of honeysuckle. Even at work, the blooms filled the air with perfume and reminded my friend Roy Thomas of things from the past. We talked about the wonderful tastes that come with this time of year.
Roy asked if I ever enjoyed tasting honeysuckle sap. I shook my head yes as my mind raced back to childhood. The vines were thick in the woods behind our house and on the barbed wire fence around the field next to us. Jim and I would walk to the blooms and enjoy the smell; it still signals our birthday is close at hand. We’d pick blooms and then pull those little strings from the blooms and suck the nectar from them. Not many desserts made by moms are any better. The problem is that too little sweetness comes from each flower.
At other times, we’d search for those little yellow flowers that came in bunches in our yard. I think the name is oxalis weed, also known as yellow sorrel. At any rate, we’d find those tiny flowers and munch of them. They were sour but tasty. The heat of the summer days quickly baked them until they disappeared.
Although they weren’t things to eat, the stems that a group of boys pulled from bales of hay made excellent chewing items. We’d sit on the bales in Mr. Long’s field and goof off or hold our club meetings. Each boy would select a straw from the bundle and gnaw on it. The only times they came out of mouths were when spitting was necessary.
Some things weren’t eaten, but they did manage to wind in our mouths. One of the worst was the puff balls that towered above dandelions. What should have been a fun activity of blowing the seeds into the air became a choking event when a boy took in a deep breath to close to the ball. At other times, we boys played baseball games, and our panting with mouths opened usually ended with gnats stuck in our teeth or throats.
Before long, fruits began to hang on limbs and vines. We were fortunate enough to have grapes vines and apple, cherry, and pear trees. Also, Daddy put out a strawberry patch. Jim and I ate grapes while standing at the vines, at least we did until wasps and bees arrived to battle us for them. Any memory of strawberries wasn’t necessarily positive because of the back-breaking, sun burned work of weeding the plants. Yes, we ate our shares of half-ripe apples, and we lost some of baby teeth with bites into rock-hard pears. Those young fruits proved to be excellent ammunition as grenades in imaginary play as soldiers fighting Germans and Japanes. I remember the taste of those cherries and, to this day, still try to find the same flavor in ones I buy.
The best taste of all during the warm-weather season comes from blackberries. Mother took us on several excursions. I fretted over snakes that might appear or the thorns that left scratches on any uncovered body part. More concern should have been devoted to the chiggers that always found several places to burrow under my skin and bring on an itch that couldn’t be scratched.
Still, those blackberries were prizes. We’d pick one and eat one. Mother always doubled our output because she stayed busy and didn’t spend time scrarfing them down. The cobblers and pies and jars of jelly that came from the berries kept us fed throughout the coldest days of winter.
Yes, Roy, I remember the nectar from honeysuckle. Thanks for reminding me of it and for all the other delicious things that Nature gives us when spring appears and as summer wears on. Warm weather is my favorite and so are the things that tasted so good then and now.