Hi, Sue here. I vividly remember the thrill of blackberry picking with my grandmother on warm, sunny days in late August or September. The glistening black fruit looks so inviting nestling amongst the leaves in hedgerows although you do have to be wary of the sharp thorns. My grandmother was a brilliant cook and would make jars of jewel-like bramble jelly (which is jam but without the pips or lumps of fruit). Absolutely delicious on hot buttered crumpets beside a crackling log fire.
So what do you need to know when setting out in search of the best blackberries? They should be shiny and firm when you pick them. You might be lucky enough to find them easily by the side of a road or you might have to venture across fields in search of suitable hedgerows. Don’t worry about car fumes – modern cars now mostly use lead-free fuel so the fruit won’t be contaminated. It will be dusty though so do give it a good wash under running water when you get home. Also, avoid fruit which is hanging low enough to be “watered” by passing dogs!
Once you’ve picked a basket of blackberries, try this tasty recipe for apple and blackberry crumble. Perfect for a Sunday lunch dessert, smothered in custard.
For the filling:
3 eating apples, peeled, quartered and cored
2 Bramley cooking apples, peeled, quartered and cored
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
100g Demerara sugar
For the crumble topping:
175g plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
140g soft brown sugar
35g porridge oats
180g cold unsalted butter
Put the quartered apples in a bowl and shuffle them around to mix them up a bit.
Mix the cinnamon with the sugar in a separate bowl.
Put half the apples in an oven dish and sprinkle with a third of the sugar mixture.
Add the blackberries and sprinkle with the second third of sugar mixture.
Cover with the remaining apples and add the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Put the flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well, then stir in the sugar and the oats.
Cut the butter into small cubes, add to the mixture and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture is the texture of breadcrumbs.
Lay the crumble mixture on top of the fruit.
Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 3 and bake the crumble for about 40 minutes.
Serve with custard or cream.
This recipe is from Mums Know Best: The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook
It’s important to check with a responsible adult before picking fruit from hedgerows. Blackberries are a good fruit to start with as they are easily recognisable and can’t be mistaken for anything inedible. In the spring you might want to search for wild garlic. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked and are particularly good in salads (raw) and soups (lightly cooked). You can find it in deciduous woods and forests and the best way to check that it’s garlic is to rub it between your fingers. You’ll recognise the pungent smell immediately.
Safety is always paramount so get yourself a good guide to foraged foods that are safe to eat. We love Richard Mabey’s Food for Free as it’s a handy Collins pocket guide with plenty of colour illustrations for easy identification.