Why I feel compelled to glean and gather-Letter to the editor

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Why I feel compelled to glean and gather

On this rainy Monday morning, and thanks to a local farmer’s generosity, I was out gleaning blueberries. There I was, joined by a few intrepid souls that also just couldn’t resist. Thinking back to my childhood it is easily understood why I feel compelled to do this.

It is not just the fact that, except for my effort, I am getting something for nothing, something that is fresh and wholesome and oh so delicious, I am also reconnecting to and reliving my past.

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Growing up in post-World War II Germany, I learned that good things are found in many places. One of our family rituals each summer was to gather wild raspberries, blackberries and even the tiny strawberries from the woods. We had the cultivated strains in our garden but for my father these would always be inferior to the wild variety.

To head out into the woods on an early morning while the fog had hardly lifted, the dew still on the leaves and the birds beginning their morning song was an experience I can still smell, hear and taste. In my recollection those are still the best raspberries that can be found anywhere in the world.

Had my father lived long enough he would be out there gathering wild mushrooms with me now, a passion I newly developed.

Getting back to Germany, we also gathered beach nuts, a much more tedious job since it involved picking them off the ground. These were then taken to a collection place to be cold pressed for oil.

Apples and pears that had fallen would be collected and taken to another place to be chopped and the juice extracted for sweet cider.

My most poignant memory of gleaning is a picture I still have in my mind where I see people stream out of the city by bus, train or bicycle with cloth bags slung around their backs. My uncle and the other village farmers would harvest their fields of wheat, barley and oats and then allow the people to come and gather all the leftover broken heads and take what they had gathered to the miller. Flour was a precious commodity then (as it appears to be now).

Perhaps this would augment their meager rations, perhaps it was a life saver or perhaps it was a way to get out into the countryside connecting to an environment that nurtures and heals providing a welcome relief from daily burdens and fears.

I intend to happily glean on whenever I get the chance.

Submitted by Christel Walter