We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven. Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint! We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home. I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.
On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?
Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.
Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia! Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place. You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc. But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.
When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place. All you need for a knockout compote. We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder. A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party. Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough. We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking. We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine. I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.
Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries. You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!
TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING
– Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing. Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.
– Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth. Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).
– Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand. If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching. Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).
– Use the berries straight away, that day. If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready. Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish. Then pop in the fridge covered loosely. This works for us. But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.
– When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside. If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.
– Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.
The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars
800g freshly picked blackberries
2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)
In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down. Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.
The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter. Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet). You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.
Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream. Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).
See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.