By Feebee Foran
One of my favourite arrivals every year is the glimmer of gorgeous juicy blackberries as they appear on bushes along virtually every walkway and greenspace right now.
Most of us will have memories of the magic of blackberry picking as a child. Munching on them on the roadsides, purple stained fingers, and the pin prick of thorns as you feverishly forage for the juiciest berries. It’s moments like this that formed my foundation for being a forager – that feeling of excitement at what you might find has never left me.
Blackberry picking is a joy that I believe all children should experience. Teaching kids to connect with nature and to begin to understand where their food comes from is a great way to introduce fruit and vegetables to even the fussiest child. If they grow it, they will at least try to eat it out of pure pride. Foraged berries and fruit rarely make it home, as they are gobbled before they even hit the basket. And the fact that they are sweet really makes the difference to children in the flavour stakes.
Truth be told, Blackberries are not actually true berries. Like Raspberries and Strawberries, they are known as Aggregate Fruits, as they are comprised of lots of fruits stacked on top of each other to create one unit. On the other hand, Banana’s, Avocado, Pumpkin and Cucumbers are all considered berries.
More than just a pretty face, the power of the Blackberry doesn’t just lay in the fruit. Although adding blackberries to your daily meals can boost your health with a punch of Vitamin C & K, enhance your daily intake of fibre, and boost your brain health, the leaves have their own special skills that are often forgotten about.
Blackberry leaf makes a fantastic tea that aids sore throats, sore gums and even mouth ulcers. The leaves contain a high level of Vitamin C, flavonoids and astringent tannins, which tone mucosa – in other words, mucus of the nose, mouth, lungs and stomach. Blackberry Leaf tea therefore is also a fantastic herbal helper for those who suffer with gastrointestinal inflammation and diarrhoea. To make your own Blackberry leaf tea, simply stew some leaves in a pot of boiling water. Allow to sit (covered) for about 10 minutes, then enjoy.
FIY – Forage It Yourself
The best Blackberries available are the ones you forage yourself; I don’t know if it’s the self- satisfaction in picking them or if it comes down to knowing that they have grown completely naturally, without cultivation or tending to that makes them all the sweeter, but for me, the best Blackberries cannot be bought.
Follow these handy tips when Blackberry picking in your area
- Venture off the beaten track.
As always, when foraging, steer off well worn hedgerows that get a lot of passing traffic – from walkers, dogs and importantly traffic. This will help you to avoid picking fruit that might be contaminated by pollution and pee!
- Protect your hands
By wearing a pair of gardening gloves when foraging Blackberries, you can protect your hands from nasty thorn pricks and the sting of lurking nettles, which are never to far away.
- Pick from waist height up
Remember that we are not the only ones who use the space around us. Our neighbours are full of secretive woodland creatures that rely on fruit from bushes and shrubs for sustenance. Keep the little guys in mind as well as birds who will be prepping and bulking up for Winter.
- Only take what you will use
There is nothing more offensive to nature than simply taking and not using. If you are planning on making a jam, you will know the general weight of berries you need. Bear that in mind before picking a glut and not using your haul. A little from each bush is the best rule of thumb, as opposed to stripping a single bush of all its fruits.
Enjoy your bounty!
Great ways to enjoy Blackberries this season:
Berry & Banana Bread Smoothie
- Handful of Blackberries
- 1 Chopped Banana
- 1 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 2 tbsp Ground Porridge Oats
- A little squeeze of Maple Syrup (or Honey)
- 2 Dollops of Natural Yogurt
- Splash of milk
Whizz all of the ingredients together using a hand blender until smooth. Add more milk until you reach your desired smoothie consistency. Enjoy as a handy breakfast on the go or as an elevenses energy booster.
Very Berry Compote
- 750g blackberries, halved
- 100g golden sugar
- The juice of ½ lemon
- Pinch ground cinnamon
Mix two thirds of the blackberries with the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a saucepan and leave for 5 minutes (to draw out the juice) before bringing to boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 mins or until the compote has thickened slightly. Add in the remaining berries at this point for a chunky compote. If you prefer it smooth, simply blitz with a hand blender. Allow to cool before using as a delicious topping on porridge or toast.
Use within 2 days or freeze for future use.
Berry Cool – a lovely way to use this compote is to allow a tub of vanilla ice cream to soften slightly. Stir a few spoons of the cooled compote into the ice cream, creating a marbled effect. Then pop back into the freeze to set. Yum!
Blackberry & Apple Crumble
For the filling
- 900g bramley apples
- 350-400g blackberries
- 175g demerara sugar
- 2 lemons
For the topping
- 225g plain flour
- 175g butter
- 55g demerara sugar
- 125g mixture of oats, seeds and chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Peel, core and chop the apples into chunks. Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice over the apple, coating well to stop the apples from discolouring (and giving them a little zing!).
Layer the apples, blackberries, and sugar in a pie dish and set aside.
Make the topping by rubbing the flour and butter together in a large bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs, I always like to leave a few chunky bits of butter in the mixture. Using your hands, stir in the oat/seed/nut mixture along with the sugar, until its all nicely blended together.
Spread the crumble topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for 45 minutes or until the fruit is cooked and fruit juices are bubbling through the topping.
Allow to cool before serving with custard or fresh cream.
Come See Me
I am delighted to be joining the Hustle Bustle Market in Maynooth every second Saturday (next market happens on the 28th August) in the Newtown Inn carpark, from 11am – 5pm. Stop by to check out some fantastic local brands, crafts people and food vendors, including my Forager stand. I will be selling my 100% natural handmade balms and soaps – all made from foraged wild herbs and natural ingredients. See you there!
Follow Feebee’s nature adventures on Instagram @forager.ie or visit www.forager.ie
Click on link to read more in this weeks Digital Edition