What a wonderful concept foraging is – all the benefits of fresh produce but with minimal input. Foraging is therefore ideal for readers who are busy gardeners or juggling life in general. It also gives you a lovely connection with the land and creates wonderful memories with the family and friends you go with.
With their easily recognisable brambles and plump, black fruit, blackberries provide a great introduction to foraging. When I was younger, I used to go blackberry picking every year. Looking back, it was probably a great way for our mother to get us out the house as the summer holidays were coming to an end. I can just imagine her saying “Take a bucket and don’t come back until its filled with blackberries!” as we headed off into the fields across our farm. Now I have children of my own, I think it’s a great experience for them. We wear long welly boots and old clothes to protect ourselves from the thorns, juice and inevitable nettles.
At the right time of year, blackberries can be found in abundance on the hedgerows which skirt fields and public commons. So, whether you’re in your own garden or exploring common land, as long as you know where to look, your efforts will be rewarded. It’s worth noting however, that when it comes to public space, you need to be a little careful of the law. But don’t less this deter you — the general rule is, as long as the blackberry bush is growing wild and you are using the fruit for personal use, then fill your boots. If you can, avoid picking on busy roads as the pollution and noise make the whole experience unpleasant.
Summer stretching into autumn provides the perfect time to go looking for blackberries, and the warmer the day, the sweeter tasting the berry. One question I always get asked a lot is, how do you know when they’re ready to eat? The clue is in the name — once the berry has turned black and soft to touch. Before that, blackberries are green then red, so leave those ones alone to ripen up for the next forager.
So, what do you do with your harvest of blackberries?
One way I love to use the berries is to put them in ice cube trays with water, freeze, then add to drinks. If you don’t have an ice cube tray then you can always put fresh blackberries straight into a nice cold drink – pretty and delicious!
Making a blackberry jelly or jam are probably the most common ways to use blackberries — it’s fresh and you always get the sense of achievement at the end. They work well as chia jam too.
A classic apple and blackberry crumble full of flavour is always a winner in my house but if you fancy something fresh, then try blitzing up a pineapple and blackberry smoothie. My girls are a huge fan!