Chatting to my grandmother the other week she said that October half term used to be called Blackberry Week as that was when the wild blackberries used to be ripe and you could go foraging. Now she is from Northumberland but I wouldn’t imagine the seasons to be vastly different from where we are based in the South West. However, we started having blackberries here from about mid August. It was the same time of year last year that they began and by the first couple of weeks of September we were overrun with them. Our blackberries are all wild and are spread about the land which is nice as we get to have a good wander, but we do tend to occasionally miss a patch. Last year the field was our best blackberry hunting ground and I would end up going round it every other day and picking two to three kilograms every time. And that was only the ones we could reach as there were many more that were too high up and so we left them for the birds. We had the field hedges cut back massively in January and they haven’t really got back to full strength yet so the field hasn’t been the best harvest this year. Last year C had blackberries pretty much everyday as her snack and she has enjoyed them again as a snack this year, especially picking them and then eating them straight away.
What I have noticed about soft fruits from the garden is that they just don’t last that long. Not just beacause they are eaten, which of course with C around they rarely make it back into the house. But also as they go soft fairly quickly after picking. Now this has made me realise several things. Firstly, the supermarket ones tend to last for a couple of days, at least, after purchase and presumably they are not in the shop the day they are picked. So what on earth do they do to get them to last that long, and how can that be good for you? Secondly, our homegrown soft fruits taste so much better than shop bought (in my humble opinion), much sweeter and juicier. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that they are eaten so much sooner after picking or just that some part of the production process for supermarket ones tends to mask their true flavour, but I just can’t find the supermarket ones as satisfying anymore.
So what do we do with all those blackberries? Well aside from eating a good portion of them, I tend to freeze those not being eaten immediately to preserve that wonderful natural goodness. I am lucky to have a tray at the top of one of my freezers so I can open freeze them. What this means is that I can lay them out flat and freeze and then bag once frozen. This means that the individual berries are kept separate and so it is easy to take out a few at a time. I always try to label the bags with the prefrozen weight if I remember! What do I use these frozen berries for? Well defrosted they tend to go a bit squishy so I have tended to use them for smoothies or yogurt toppings, fruit crumbles and of course jams and chutneys (I made about 20+ jars of blackberry and apple jam last year that were amazing). This year with the hedges having been cut right back we haven’t had quite so many but C was still able to have a couple of friends over for some blackberry picking and eating and I’ve still added to my freezer collection for the winter. What do other people do with their blackberries? Does anyone else do any foraging?