The delightful summer pastime of scrambling through blackberry hedgerows evokes wonderfully British thoughts of Enid Blyton and summer pudding. One of the beauties of nature’s bounty is that it is free, but do make sure you don’t trespass on private property in your search for fat, ripe berries.
Making the most of blackberry season
It may seem obvious – see fruit, pick it. However our little guide to picking blackberries will help you to get the best from your fruits. The best blackberries will usually be quite obvious – fatter and blacker than their neighbours, and firm and shiny when you pick them. Nonetheless, size and colour are no guarantee of flavour, which seems to vary depending upon location.
This is one occasion when trying before you buy is really recommended. When you spot some promising looking bushes, sample the produce and go for the bushes with the juiciest and most flavoursome fruits. Bushes away from busy roads and high enough to avoid the cocked legs of wandering dogs are a good bet.
As a guide to blackberry season, aim for the end of August and through September. Folklore has it that blackberries picked after the end of September have been peed on by the devil – make of that what you will… More prosaically, a damp October will no doubt spoil what’s left of the crop.
When you collect your fruits, take plenty of containers and don’t overfill them as blackberries’ tender skin bruises and squashes easily. If kept dry the blackberries should be good for two or three days. Like most fruits, blackberries taste much better eaten at room temperature so make sure you get them out of the fridge a couple of hours before you need them. If you have a glut to deal with, blackberries cook fantastically in a huge variety of recipes and freeze well. You can either puree the fruits to freeze them or place in a single layer on a tray so they hold their shape.
Cooking your way through blackberry season
Apart from the obvious crumbles, cakes, pies and jam, try blackberries to accompany savoury meats. Venison, pigeon and other game all work well with blackberries. A coulis is simple to make and is a sophisticated topping for pancakes or ice cream, or you can take a very adult stance and macerate the blackberries with some sugar then straining the juice into a bottle and filling it up with vodka, gin or brandy…