Monday, September 08, 2008

Blackberry season

Blackberry season is upon us. Ever since a child, collecting blackberries has been an annual ritual. I used to go picking with my parents, and thirty years later I do it with my daughter. Aside from getting pricked, it's great fun, and free. Blackberries are great on their own with cream, or in a fruit salad, or in pies and crumbles. If you're adventuous try making bramble jelly. The other day we made a lovely blackberry and apple crumble – round the corner from the brambles was an apple tree with apples literally falling into my hands.

I reminded a friend about blackberries. He looked at me like I was crazy. If I want any, I'll buy them in the supermarket, he said. Why? I asked. It's safer, he said. I was stunned. Not only are supermarket blackberries expensive – I can pick a £2.50 punnet in about two minutes – but they are usually tasteless and not as healthy as they might look – British supermarkets are notorious for being more concerned about looks than taste or nutrition. Recent studies have shown prepacked fruit has vitamin C levels far below normal for unprepared fruit. Another study, by Friends of the Earth, reported that more than 50% of supermarket fruit still contained pesticide residue. Picking yourself is definately the safest option!

Living in the country, we luckily have brambles at the back of our garden. However, like foxes and rats, more seem to be found in the city nowadays. We used to live on a council estate in London and found them on the outskirts of the estate. Being near the heat given off by cars and homes helps them grow, so city blackberries seem to get bigger and juicier quicker too.

Remember the blackberry picking mantra: eat one, save one and leave one for the birds. And don't pick the low ones – dogs may have peed on them.

PS: Though summer has been something of a disappointment, there is plenty to look forward to now autumn – 'season of mist and mellow fruitfulness' – is upon us. If you're thinking of living off the land, now's the perfect time to do so*. Nuts, mushrooms and berries are all ripe for the picking, and apples, pears, plums and damsons are all in season too.

*Though this blog takes no responsibility if you get poisoned.

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