At this time of year, there are blackberries to be found all over the place, from the slightly run down corner of the car park in town, in the country park or in the hedgerows around the farm. Food for free. Who can resist?
There’s a certain nostalgia attached to blackberry picking. I always imagine a picture lifted straight from a 1960s Ladybird book with a happy family, wicker basket in hand wandering along a country lane on a sunny autumnal afternoon. Possibly with the prospect of a picnic at the end, complete with red gingham tablecloth and bottles of pop.
The reality of our blackberry is picking is slightly less romantic when Beth and I set out laden with containers to pick blackberries for Beth to make into Blackberry Gin. We lean precariously over ditches, stand on tiptoe to reach high branches and debate the lowest height of a pickable blackberry (answer – no lower than a large dog can cock his leg). Luckily, there’s also an unruly bit of hedge on the garden boundary with just enough blackberries for me to pop out with an enamelled basin and pick for the kitchen.
Blackberries bridge summer and autumn beautifully. Used like any other soft fruit they can be heaped into bowls, piled atop pavlovas or mixed with autumn raspberries to top an autumnal tart or used for making ice cream. On cooler days, blackberry filled crumble, betty or pie sitting in a pool of yellow custard make a warming pudding.
But blackberries aren’t just for eating. Did you know that you can use the stalks and the berries for dyeing yarn and fabric? This hat was knitted with yarn dyed with brambles and blackberries; it’s surprising how many different colours you can get by using different mordants and modifers.
If you’re looking for something different to do with blackberries, perhaps because you’ve already made blackberry jam and had your fill of blackberry crumble and apple and blackberry pie, take a look at this little booklet Making the Most of Blackberries, which has more ideas for using blackberries.