On Berries, Stupid Berries – PT 3

Part 3 – Some Berries Are Poison

(for PART 2: A Challenge From Nature  click here)

As is so often the case when we speak of nature and natural things, there is a potentially fatal hazard to all this, and it is that not all berries are good to eat.  In fact, some berries are specifically bad to eat and consumption of these little devils can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting to diarrhea to hallucinations to being poisoned to death.  You will want to avoid berries in the following circumstances.

–  If the berries have a skull and crossbones symbol on them, you do not want to eat those berries.  The skull and crossbones is the international symbol for poison.

–  If the berries are surrounded by the skeletal remains of humans and and animals, you do not want to eat those berries.  The berries are either deadly and caused all these creatures to die, or there is some sort of dangerous beast lurking near the berries that has been killing people and creatures as they feed on the otherwise-harmless berries.  Either way, this is no place for the wary traveler.

–  If the berries smell terrible, you do not want to eat those berries.  Even if they are not poison they will smell terrible and that stink could spread to the rest of your gear.

–  If the berries are red, under no circumstances should you eat those berries.

–  If the berries are sentient and plead with you not to eat them, and perhaps promise that they will grant you a wish should you leave them alone, you do not want to eat those berries.  This situation has likely never happened, but it is a matter of simple common sense.

–  If the berries are poisonberries, you do not want to eat those berries.  Poisonberries are as common as strawberries and blueberries and most people reading this already know about them as they can be found at most grocery emporiums.  As their name suggests, they are extremely poisonous.

–  If there is no way for you to reach the berries, you do not want to eat those berries.  This crucial survival tip is demonstrated in the classic Aesop fable about the fox and the sour grapes1.

–  If the berries are infested with worms or other vermin, you do not want to eat these berries.  The worms are likely not poisonous and have no bearing on the poisonous nature of the berry.  In fact, the fact that they are eating the berry is probably a good sign that the berry is safe to eat.  So upon further reflection, I rescind this example.  Eat the berries with worms in them.

 Epilogue To The Berry Chapter: Berries In The Long Term

Though most would agree that it is a profound failing on the part of plants that berries are so easily found and consumed, there is one way that plants get the last laugh, so to speak (though plants do not laugh).  When berries are egested, their seeds remain in the dung of the beast that egested them, and from this dung, a new berry bush grows.  Thus the circle of life continues as the parents give up their lives for their young.  And thus, we can reach the somewhat unpleasant conclusion that every time you eat a berry, you are in fact eating reconstituted dung and should feel an overwhelming sense of shame.

The true outdoorsineer can use this knowledge to prepare for long-term excursions into the wild.  Note that “long-term” in this case refers to a stay in the wild of perhaps several years and as a result this section may be skipped by the casual fun-venturer.  But for the committed, here is a technique that will allow you to create a constantly-replenishing food supply: intentionally leave droppings in places where you would like a berry bush to grow.

After eating berries, the outdoorsman should take careful stock of where he does his defecating, for each dung pile forms the future location of a new berry bush.  It is therefore not recommended that you defecate all in one place, for then all the berry bushes would grow up in the same location and would compete for resources, and some of the berries would surely die.  Instead, defecate in a different place each time you eat berries so that you eventually form a ring around your campsite.  Then, water the droppings with pee-pee2.  In time, sprouts will grow out of the dung and, in more time, these sprouts will mature into full-fledged berry bushes.  The berries from these bushes can be eaten and turned into dung to create even more new berry bushes.

Some have criticized this advice as skirting the edge of madness, and these criticisms shall be aired out here, for this method of berry creation does bring the outdoorsman uncomfortably close to the position of a god among the berries.  Berries are born into terror, knowing that they will someday be eaten by the cruel camper who lives among them.  And yet they must be eaten, for without the life-giving berry-filled dung, none of the berry bushes would exist in the first place.  Imagine, then, the nihilistic life of a berry.  Death and birth go hand-in-hand, and either may come swooping in from above at any minute.  The berry has no defenses against this, lacking fangs, claws, wings, or other survival mechanisms, and is left merely to wait for its coming demise.  This kind of thinking can get inside an outdoorsineer’s head and, if extrapolated beyond berries, can get him pretty close to being a serial killer.  So, as always, exercise caution and restraint in all things!

I am Berrymandius, look upon my work ye mighty (berries) and despair.

In conclusion, the point of this chapter is that sometimes you can eat berries.

  1. As the story goes, a fox came upon a cluster of grapes and attempted to eat them, but no matter how hard he leaped he could not reach them.  Eventually he gave up and left, muttering that the grapes were likely sour anyway.  Aesop of course was not a very good writer and he made two key errors in this fable.  First, foxes cannot talk, so the entire parable makes precious little sense as any sane person would see that the truly interesting element of the story is this amazing talking fox.  And the second error is that grapes are not berries. []
  2. Or with water, but as we have already taken a decidedly scatological twist, why not continue down this boorish road?  Pee-pee and poo-poo and ca-ca and so on and so forth. []
Categories: 6: Plants You Shall Find | Leave a comment

On Berries, Stupid Berries – PT 2

Part 2 – A Challenge From Nature

(for PART 1: An Introduction to Berries click here)

In the course of picking berries, you may come upon a deer who is also in the process of taking some berries for its own.  Unlike you, the deer will likely not be storing the berries, but will simply be eating them on the spot.  It is not recommended that you do this, because then you will not have any for later.  But I digress – you are facing down a deer.  What are you to do?

As you may have guessed, you are going to need to display your dominance so that the deer knows that it is in your territory.  Otherwise it will see you as an intruder, and worse, as a coward, and it will not back down.  You should adopt a pose that is similar to an angry deer, and lock your eyes with those of the deer.  This would be an ideal time to have a genetic mutation that causes you to have horns or a tail, but the truth is that very few people are cursed in this way.  The standard human body can be contorted into a relatively deer-like posture, and this will have to do.  As you face the deer, you may snarl if you wish, but make sure that you are not snarling in a manner too similar to a cougar or a badger, as this will likely confuse the deer.  Remember, you need the deer to think that you are a deer, like it is.

While you are in this dominance position, begin to approach the deer.  Do this with a slow and steady gait as it is crucial to create the impression that you are in no hurry to get this confrontation over with.  Deer do not respect people with a lot to do, as they generally feel that these people are exaggerating their own business to make themselves feel important1.  When you are close to the deer, suddenly reach forward and plunge your arm into the deer’s mouth.  Reach around inside until you come upon some of the berries that the deer has eaten, and pull them out.  Place them in your basket.  Then reach back down the deer’s esophagus and repeat the procedure until you have pulled all of the berries out of the deer’s stomach.

In this way, you are giving a signal to the deer that says “no, deer, these are not your berries, these are mine”.  The deer will nod and perhaps bow down on its two front legs, and then it will run into the deep of the woods.  Good work, outdoorsman, the berries are yours.

Tomorrow we shall discuss some more of the challenges of picking berries.

  1. The “busy soccer mom” theory of animal behavior. []
Categories: 6: Plants You Shall Find | 2 Comments

On Berries, Stupid Berries – PT 1

Part 1 – An Introduction to Berries

The wilderness can seem a daunting place, for it is in the wilderness that man pits his mettle against the combined mettles of nature and all its minions, and it is possible to be outwitted by some of the more cunning beasts1.  But despair not!  If one ever need find evidence of his superiority over at least some of the living creatures in his surroundings, then one need look no further than the berry.

The berry is the ultimate evidence of the stupidity of plants.  While animals have evolved camouflage as a means of hiding from unwanted attention, berries have moronically evolved in the opposite direction.  Berries stand out in bright contrast to the greens and browns of the forest as if they were inviting others to come and eat them.  And, indeed, many answer the call.  It is likely that in the course of your life, you have eaten a berry or two yourself – each bite a victory.

Berries can provide an important source of nutrition for the outdoorsineer who has failed to hunt an animal and who does not have an adequate supply of trail mix, lovely trail mix, in his backpack2.  While eating berries all day is certainly not the most ideal way to pass the time in the outdoors, most would agree that it is preferable to a long, slow death by starvation.  There is even some joy to be found in the consumption of berries, as their flavors run the gamut from “sweet” to “sour” to “berry-licious”, and they are a key ingredient in many island-themed cocktails.


Can you find all the berries hidden in this image of nature? Of course you can.

So let us talk about gathering berries, shall we?  Yes, we shall.

If you are going to gather berries, you will want to have some sort of basket or holding pan to contain all the berries that you find3.  Move from bush to bush, removing the berries and placing them into your holding device.  It does not matter if you start from the bottom of the bush or from the top, but you may wish to entertain yourself by only allowing yourself to pick berries from the far side of the bush, or perhaps to try to pick berries in order from smallest to largest.  Such are the innovative amusements of the restless outdoorsineer.

Tomorrow we shall discuss some of the challenges of picking berries (click here).

  1. Wildebeasts, jackelopes, eagles. []
  2. That is, a terrible outdoorsineer. []
  3. You will likely not want to just use your hands, even though at first this will seem like a fine way to carry all your berries.  As your cache of berries grows in size, your hands will be unable to contain everything that you have picked, and you will likely drop a berry on the ground if you stoop to pick a new berry.  This can continue to the point where you are losing a berry for every berry that you discover.  And in fact it can continue even beyond that point so that you are losing multiple berries for every berry that you take.  And, in an even more interesting turn, this process can continue until you are losing so many berries that the number of berries in your hand becomes a negative number that decreases with every berry that you pick.  This negative number of berries is a physical impossibility so it will cause a paradox, preventing you from ever having picked a berry to begin with.  While this may seem strange and outside the laws of day-to-day experience, the math proves that it is in fact inevitable and is a relatively common occurrence.  Think of all the times that you have not picked berries. []
Categories: 6: Plants You Shall Find | 1 Comment

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