Some years ago I worked during my holidays on a farm doing odd-jobs. This farm had sheep, paddocks of hay, apple trees, grape vines and various berry-fruit bushes.

One week I would be cleaning the irrigation for the apple trees, the next I would be pruning and tying back the grape vines, or loading hay bails onto the back of a truck. It was physical work, and often monotonous, but for a lowly student it was good money, and kept me fit.

The owner decided it was time to harvest the black currants, and I was asked to help with this. He had a huge machine which drove through the rows of black currant bushes, straddling the bushes and with a row of long spike-like "fingers" would shake the hell out of the bushes so the berries would fall off onto a conveyor belt. The belt would carry the berries (and anything else that fell out) toward the back of the machine and drop them into huge wooden crates on the back.

My job was to stand waist-deep in berries and pull out the leaves and sticks that came into the bins. There was a certain percentage of leaves and sticks that the juice factory would accept when buying the berries, so we had to work fast and pull out as many of the extra bits as possible.

The machine was quite a complex beast, and often broke down. The constant vibration of the machine kept the surface of the berries in the bin that I was in moving about, but when the machine stopped the vibrating stopped also, and the berries settled down. It was during these times that I saw what blackcurrant juice is mainly made up of.

You see, the entire bin was seething with a mass of earwigs. The surface was a constantly moving, pulsating, swarm of the little brown bugs with the nippers on their butt. Of course there was no way to remove them, so it was just the sticks and leaves that were a concern, and the odd frog and rabbit would come down the conveyor also.

I imaging that at the juice factory, they boil the berries up to extract the juice, but there must be somebody whose fulltime job it is to scoop the bodies of the dead bugs off the surface.

Next time you have a drink of blackcurrant, remember that you are probably drinking about 50% earwig juice also. They are sure to be nutitional, but just the thought turns my stomach.

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