For foraging nerds like me, there are treasures to be found year round. We found a few wild mushrooms in the fields – our buckthorn berries are ripening and I’ve picked lots of rowan berries to make jelly to serve with pork, lamb or game when it comes into season.
There are oodles of wild blackberries this year so you can satisfy your inner ‘hunter gatherer’ or just have a trip down memory lane.
|Image: Lucy H. Pearce|
We have tons on the briars in the hedgerows around the school, an extra bonus from rewilding areas on the farm to provide extra habitats for birds, wild animals, bees and other pollinating insects. This year they are really fat and juicy, with a more intense tart flavour than the cultivated blackberries, and of course they are free. Organise a bramble picking expedition with your children and grandchildren. You will need to show them how to pick the best ones and how to judge if they are infested with tiny maggots – the core will be stained with blackberry juice rather than pale creamy green centre.
We buy kilos of blackberries for jam from local children who love to earn some pocket money and continue the tradition that has endured in many families for generations.
Blackberries freeze brilliantly – they also dry well. If you have a dehydrator, it’s really worth experimenting with blackberries – add them to scones, muffins, muesli. Try folding some into Champ or Colcannon to serve with roast duck…
They are at their best at present but will gradually deteriorate depending on the weather. Older people used to tell us children not to pick blackberries after Halloween, some say Michaelmas (29th September) ‘cos the ‘púca’ will have spit on them’. This was a brilliant deterrent to stop hungry kids from eating over ripe blackberries years ago.
Have fun with blackberries…Once again, they are deliciously versatile, think of adding them to both sweet and savoury dishes as well as scattering over breakfast granola, muesli, yoghurt…Pop one into an ice cube with a mint leaf to add to cordials and aperitifs.
They are packed with Vitamin C and are supposed to improve both motor and cognitive functions and couldn’t we all do with that. They also make delicious wine if you are into home brewing but crème de mûre is even easier – try this recipe which I originally came across in one of my favourite cookbooks of all time, Jane Grigson’s ‘Good Things’. It’s a brilliant base for a cordial or a blackberry Kir.