Originally published: 25.09.15
‘Tis the time to go a hunting for blackberries….
Yesterday, I went blackberry picking with my children and my cat. That’s right, my cat! She decided to join us on the whole journey, dutifully following us like a lost puppy. Anyway, I digress, this was the second time we’ve been blackberry picking. It’s become an Autumn ritual for me and I have been eyeing up the brambles all year.
Here is my guide to blackberry picking (not that you need one, I just like writing about it!):
With my health and safety hard hat on, I would just like to say that make sure you know what you are picking and make sure you are safe (no picking blackberries whilst hanging one handed off a railway bridge for instance …..). Oh and best to leave the blackberries that are on road sides as they will be covered in pollution.
My only other rule is to always leave enough for Mother Nature. This is pretty easy when it comes to blackberries as they are so abundant! Also, the best ones always seem to be out of reach. A walking stick can help you to access the ones that are tantalising close.
Blackberries are pretty easy to identify. The black clusters of juiciness drip down off thorny stems and dark green leaves with a serrated edge – and more thorns lay along their veins. I’ve provided many photographs just in case you don’t know what you are looking for!
Talking of thorns …. You can’t go blackberry picking without the following hazards:
Thorns – they will scratch you and stick in your skin! I’m currently sporting a rather nasty gash on my finger where the thorn ripped through my skin. Ow! Thorns also have a habit of lodging in your skin, like splinters. Remove them quickly to avoid irritation.
Nettles – damn them! They get everywhere and I was stung several times yesterday.
Dog poo – sadly so, hedgerows seem to be the perfect place for dogs to poo and owners to not clear up after them. Also, don’t pick blackberries near or at ground level as you never know if a dog has urinated on them. Bleurgh.
Spiders – I class these as a hazard! You might love them but I don’t… One managed to land in my trainer which caused me to flick said trainer and sock into the hedge. Spiders relish making their webs on and around brambles so careful where you’re reaching to.
I hope I’m not ruining this for you! Blackberries are probably the most well known hedgerow food that are free to forage and devour. I don’t bother with supermarket berries or even the pick your own places, I find these berries to be bland and tasteless. Nothing compares to the taste of a wild blackberry and as they are only available for such a short window of time, I make the most of them!
Not only are the berries wonderful to eat; the experience of being in the autumn sunshine, listening to the bird song and feeling the breeze on your face is second to none. Whilst I was out picking, I noticed rose hips, elderberries, sloes and crab apples. All are edible – as are the hawthorn berries that I spotted (but please do your research as many need cooking and deseeding before they are safe to eat).
My top tip is to not eat them fresh but to freeze them for use in apple and blackberry pies and crumbles. They provide a welcome reminder of the summer sun when all out side is wintertime gloom.
Once you’ve picked your blackberries, give them a good rinse with cold tap water. Allow to dry and then open on a baking tray. They don’t take long to freeze and there’s something magical about the frozen blackberry. It looks like the most delectable boiled sweet known to womankind! Bag up your frozen berries for later consumption. When you need them, give them another rinse with boiled water and add straight into whatever you’re cooking.
Blackberries are still out in force so get out there now and fill your freezer with free food straight from nature’s larder.
Happy picking and happy eating!