Foraging

This year I remembered. I remembered to take the family blackberry picking before they were all mouldy, eaten by birds or already snaffled by everyone else. Off we went with a couple of tubs to see how many we could find.

Around the corner from our house is a wilderness. A large council building has been demolished and the surrounding area (including a couple of old broken tennis courts) are filled with plants and trees, untended for years. Bits of it are beautiful. Bits of it are less so – I blame the council.

It is a brave place to go blackberry picking due to the ridiculous number of people who let their dogs foul everywhere, but if you are nimble footed it’s worth the effort. Hundreds of blackberry bushes have spread everywhere. We filled our tubs to the brim, lamenting those blackberries that were too far into the dense thicket to reach but of course looked the juiciest and best.

I have to say I was pleased with myself. Not only had I remembered to go at the right time, I had carried out a fun family experience which was healthy (well it’s fruit) outdoors (excellent for the lungs) and totally free. No-one stepped in dog poo and all was well.

The trouble is i’m not the most domesticated person. I do try but when faced with a massive tub of blackberries I got a bit panicked. We had to use them obviously, but how?

Of course I thought, “Jam! I will try to make jam!”

So I made jam. My free wholesome activity was going to result in delicious jam. I went to the supermarket and bought 2 kilners jars (I’d just recycled, darn it) and a jam thermometer costing a grand total of £18. I then made 2 jars of reasonably effective, quite nice (if a bit gritty) blackberry jam. I’m not sure I’ve ever paid £9 for a jar of jam before.

A couple of days later Tilly and I went back. I was determined to get the next batch of blackberries and make a crumble, my first since about 2002. We had a great time and again I was filled with joy and happiness. Until, that is, I disturbed what I think was a rat’s nest and the resulting squeaking sent me flying towards home barely looking backwards. Tilly was in hot pursuit. We are at one with nature us.

Once I’d recovered from my brush with rodents we tugged three apples from the tree in my garden and made a passable blackberry and apple crumble. We have no idea what the apples are. Paul tried to google it but it’s surprisingly difficult. He settled on it being called Gavin. Sufficed to say they aren’t very nice unless you cook them for ages and mix them with lots of sugar.

The trouble was even after this I had some blackberries left. It was getting a bit ridiculous. Finally I tried to make compote but since everyone was starting to complain about getting seeds stuck in their teeth I sieved it and made blackberry sauce instead. It tastes exactly like the bit in the little triangle on a tippy yoghurt. Very healthy apart from the sugar.

I can safely say I’ve had enough of blackberries for a bit. Roll on October when we can go foraging for pumpkins…

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