With the weather being so unpredictable this summer, I wasn’t sure about how good this year’s blackberry crop would be. But upon first inspection of my regular harvesting patch, we are in for a bumper crop here in South West London.
The shiny, power-packed fruits have long fascinated me, bound up with childhood memories of berry-gathering expeditions with my Mum, and first solo bicycle rides down country lanes with an ice cream tub fixed up on the carrier to hold my bounty. I just loved the whole gathering process, not to mention what we did with them; pies, summer puddings, jam, ice lollies. Fruit picking is something that I’ve done all my life, but you can’t beat the magic of the first outing of the year…
I’d been feeling a bit low, but 30 minutes of picking on my local riverside path last weekend completely revitalised me. The bending and stretching involved in avoiding those spiky brambles and reaching high for the plumpest sun-kissed fruits gave me an excellent work-out. I also benefited from the banter with passers-by, some of whom I converted, declaring they would be returning to do some foraging themselves!
Packed with Vitamin C and high in fibre, the berries are not just a great snack on their own, but I’ll be filling up the freezer to see me through the winter. I’ll be using my stock to pep up my muesli or fruit salad as well as adding to my porridge. I love to blitz them into a juice drink with the other fruit I’ve gathered recently.
I live in the middle of a city but blackberries, plums, cherries, dewberries, apples, damsons and a recently located top-secret mulberry tree are all on my doorstep and sure to keep me busy over the next few months. Apples are also starting to pop around this time of year, and crunchy homegrown tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the shop. A neighbour recently let me loose on their crop – they were totally delicious to eat off the tree but also good to work into so many recipes.
A classic mouth-watering fruit pie is hard to beat, but World Cancer Research Fund’s blackberry and apple cranachan recipe is a healthy alternative which is low on calories. Our eye-catching summer pudding is almost too beautiful to eat and a glass of autumn bramble is the ultimate way to end any day.
All I can say is if you’ve never given yourself purple fingers or brushed with a nettle in pursuit of the ultimate monster berry, you have missed out on what is truly one of life’s finest pursuits.