Blackberry Time

 

Blackberries on the bush

Blackberries on the bush

 

Autumn is approaching rapidly and the hedgerows are starting to yield their harvest.

A sunny day finally arrives, so with the dogs on their leads and pockets loaded with carrier bags, we set off to collect some Blackberries. or Brambles and Blackites as they are known locally.

Compared to last year and especially the year before, the fruits were disappointing. Very small berries and many of them already going mouldy on the branches.  Some fruits are hard and stunted, so it took us over an hour and a good mile covered to gain only about 2Kg of fruit.

In recent years, the same patch has yielded around 10Kg of nice plump juicy berries.

Pondering the reason for this we firstly blamed the weather. This year has seen only four weeks of decent sunshine in May, turning to rain in the second week of June. The ground was incredibly waterlogged and this is the first time we have been slipping around in mud whilst trying to pick the fruit.

The second factor we considered was the proliferation of Himalayan Balsam in the hedgerows. This plant is not native to the UK and has become a real pest in the past three or four years.  Its growth is rampant and no doubt it is sucking vital nutrients away from the native Blackberry bushes.

All of the bushes seemed to be “struggling”, with leggy stems reaching for much needed sunlight and bearing rust patches on their leaves.

Anyway, we had enough for a couple of pies or crumbles and maybe even a couple of pots of bramble and apple jelly,

Blackberries should not really be eaten whilst picking as they can contain lots of little maggots and should be soaked in cold salted water for about four hours before use. This will allow all those little beasties to crawl out and drown, leaving you with a bowlful of clean blackberries ready to use. Tip the berries into a strainer and rinse well to remove any traces of salt.

Within hours of picking, the fruits can often start to rot, so they are best used straight after cleaning or frozen. (Always clean the fruit before freezing and remove as much of the water from the berries as you can).

If you are planning to go foraging for wild Blackberries, consider some sturdy shoes and old clothes as you will get prickled and the juice stains. A walking cane (the sort with a hooked end) is very useful for reaching and pulling branches closer. Plastic bags (without holes in) or containers to put your berries in.

If you take the dog(s) along too, be ware that most of the best ripe berries will be in full sun, so be mindful of the time you spend and keep taking your dog into the shade and carry a bottle of water.

Don’t pick berries near the ground (dog peeing height) or from the side of a busy road to avoid contamination from vehicle fumes.

let us have your “Brambling” tales and tell us if you are experiencing a poor blackberry harvest, even if you grow your own.