Saturday, September 04, 2010

In Praise of Blackberries

Delicious, versatile, easy to identify, plentiful and free. And this year so plentiful that you can pick just those immediately in front of you at arm height. No need to stretch and risk scratching and bites from unseen insects, although it is still wise to keep an eye open for sneaky nettles and rival wasps. When they are so prolific, no special equipment or effort is needed. Just a bucket. The secret is to ignore those large juicy ones just out of reach and select from the space immediately in front of you. This makes the whole process relatively stress-free. Of course there are always those very ripe berries which squish between your fingers, and the stubborn one which refuse to come quietly, but on the whole, this becomes one of those therapeutic, getting in touch with nature-type activities. I can well imagine that in this country you are never more than a few yards away from a blackberry bush.
Then you get them home and the next stage of the ritual begins: wash them, pick over them, weigh them, and decide what you are going to do with them. They are so versatile, it's difficult to decide: pies, crumbles, cobblers; on their own or combined with apples; seedy jams, clear, sparking jellies, sweet and spicy cordials with just a hint of brandy to preserve and enhance their medicinal qualities, vinegars, wines, liqueurs... the possibilities are endless.  

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