Get blackberry picking!
Blackberries usually ripen in late summer, for picking in August and September, but with all this warm weather, many parts of the UK are already in full blackberry season.
Blackberries are full of vitamins A, C, E (and many of the B vitamins) as well as magnesium, potassium and calcium. They’re a great source of fibre too, so a worthwhile addition to your diet.
There’s something magical about picking food at source, especially from the wild! And blackberries thrive in plenty of urban as well as woodland habitats, so you can usually find a patch fairly close to home.
Here are our tips for making the most of the blackberry season this year.
1. Know what you’re picking
It’s important children know what’s safe to pick and what they need to avoid. Help children identify blackberries by their distinctive shape: a collection of dark purple-black mini-berries rather than one single fruit. Also show them the leaf shape and thorns so they know they’re foraging from the right plant. With younger children, close supervision when foraging is always recommended.
Richard Mabey’s classic book ‘Food For Free’ is an excellent introduction to foraging all year round.
2. Cover up
As well as the aforementioned thorns, blackberry patches are usually accompanied by nettles. So dress appropriately for foraging, with long sleeves and trousers, and gloves if you’re worried about hands getting prickled.
Blackberry juice stains, and it’s almost inevitable that some berries will get squashed as they’re being harvested, so wear old clothes or overalls to minimise the spread of purple! Carry a wet cloth or wipes to clean fingers before they get wiped onto clothing too.
3. Choose your spot
When you’re looking for a place to pick, bear in mind:
• Who owns the land – don’t pick on private land
• Avoid busy roads and industrial sites as you don’t want the fruit to have absorbed particulates
• The height of the berries – steer clear of ones at dog wee height! If you’re able to take a small step or stool for shorter pickers to stand on, that will help them access berries growing in a safer range.
4. Use the fruits of your labours
Take lidded containers or baskets to gather your berries – they will all squish together if you use bags. Assuming you don’t eat everything you pick straightaway here’s how to make the most of them once you’re home (make sure you wash berries before you cook with them):
• Bake! Blackberries are great for crumbles, cobblers and cakes. The Woodland Trust has a great selection of child-friendly baking recipes featuring blackberries
• Drink! Mix 100g blackberries with 100g natural yogurt, a banana and a teaspoon of honey for a delicious breakfast smoothie
• Freeze! Blackberries freeze well, so add them to baking, porridge, smoothies all year round. They also make great ice cubes: just add a berry to each segment of your ice cube tray then freeze water around them for a fun addition to your drinks.
• Dye! If you have lots of blackberries and they’ve gone beyond their freshest, you can still make use of them. Blackberries make an enduring purplish dye, so have a go at customising old t-shirts or cloths! Try this step-by-step guide to dying clothes with blackberries.