The best thing about this time of year, for me, is the abundance of wild food. There is something extremely satisfying about collecting your own fruit and making it into jams, liqueurs and puddings. I get a sense of wholesomeness when I open the chest freezer to see bags of frozen fruit, ready at any time to be used and available all year around.
I call it extreme because I am talking about talking those really dense, high brambles that provide such a large quantity of fruit. The end of August and through September is blackberry season. Brambles cover a large percentage of the woodland floor in our wood but they are quite spindly and the fruit is small and sparse. So we visit our favourite spot which is down a disused railway where the blackberry bushes were once cultivated by a station master. The fruits there are bigger, juicer and there are so many of them. We visit a few times over a couple of weeks at this time of year and there is evidence of only a small amount of picking from other people. Even though we take a heavy harvest there are always many berries left on the bushes.
Blackberry picking is an easy and rewarding activity but it can also be painful and messy due to the thorns, the nettles that happen to grow around most bramble bushes and the juice that stains clothes so easily. Here are my few simple tips for successful extreme blackberry foraging.
The jeans and jacket will protect you from the thorns as you wade through the bush to reach berries.
Wear a leather gardening glove on one hand
The glove will allow you to pull the brambles towards you while you use the other hand to carefully pick off the berries.
Take a small, hard receptacle with a string handle
Hanging your receptacle around your neck keeps your hands free for tackling the bramble bush. I just put a plastic bag into a plant pot then tie a loop of string around the top of the pot as the lip of the pot is effective at keeping the string in place. I then tie a length of string to the string around the pot to form a handle that is long enough to go over my head and lets the receptacle hand at belly height.
Take a large receptacle
The one you have round your neck will fill quickly so dispense your berries into the larger receptacle when required.
Take a pole from a sweeping brush with a coat hanger hook stuck in the top
It’s sod’s law that the biggest, ripest and juiciest berries are just out of reach but this cheap, simple tool helps you pull the thick, spiky stems closer so you can access the best berries.
Wash before you eat them
Once picked, rinse them in cold water to remove as many beasties and foliage as possible before bagging them up for the freezer. If you intend to eat them fresh, keep them in the fridge, unwashed, until the time comes to eat them. Once wet they go off a lot quicker. There will be the odd bug in there but that’s just something one needs to accept when eating wild food. Extra nutrition and all that!
I wish you a fruitful blackberry picking season and hope my tips save you from a few scratches and provides many puddings!
PS.Do you have and nifty picking tips to share?