11.8.12

Blackberry or Bramble, the humblest of fruits


The humble Blackberry or Bramble, easy to identify and the starting point for even the newest of foragers, but what do we really know about it?

For most, the Blackberry or to give it its Latin name ‘Rubus fruticosus’ is one of the most identifiable of wild fruits. I would propose that this is the most picked or foraged for of all the Wild Foods! Instantly recognisable, even the most urbanite of us can identify it, why? Who knows, but maybe it’s just because they are so tasty and our mouth’s are subconsciously programmed to water when seeing them, our brains instantly recognising them as a tasty food source.

The Wild Blackberry or Bramble is very common. They literally get everywhere, there wandering habit is down to the success of the fruit, humans aren’t the only wildlife that loves this most generous of plants!

The fruit is made up of a series of drupelets that make up the berry, each drupelet containing a seed. Each plant or cane spreads by firstly growing toward the sky then when long enough bending to touch the soil, spreading roots and setting off again. The fruit starts as a pale white and pink five petal flower eventually turning into small hard fruit changing from green to black with various shades of pinks, reds and purples before settling on luscious black as the sugars are produced, seeds mature and full ripeness achieved. Nature as usual is successful through subtlety, each cane doesn’t allow its fruit to ripen all at once, that strategy may end up as failure as one greedy black bird or forager may be able to feast on its Blackberries in one meal, limiting the range and distribution of its seeds.

Although the Blackberry is commonly known and recognised it’s not the one plant or species that we know but a collection of micro species. It is presumed that there are over 400 different species of Blackberry in the UK alone. If you love your Blackberries like I do you’ll have a number of locations that you prefer to collect this abundant fruit. In particular I have a location where the berries ripen early and the fruits are huge and sweet, this species of Blackberry – although the name or genotype is unknown to me – is my favourite. Flavours along with shape and size varies from species to species, so next time you are collecting taste (as if you needed an excuse) and try fruit from each new spot and compare as the flavours vary hugely.  
The season for Blackberries starts in August and there can be fruit on the plant until October, any fruit that persists after this period is bitter and flavourless and cannot even be used in Jams. It’s not only the fruit that’s good either, the leaves make a great tea too, only improved by drying.

Did I mention that Blackberries are hugely good for you too? Anti-cancer and benefits for Eye health, Skin health, Digestive health, Bone health, Cardiovascular health.. And they can help PMS. 

So, the big deal, what do you do with them? Blackberries are of course delicious fresh from the bush. If you do prefer to eat them like this beware you are on a timer as even in the fridge they will not last longer than a day. So, if you are to keep them perhaps you should preserve them, freezing (as soon as you can) works well, you can preserve whole fruits in alcohol or make Blackberry Gin or Brandy, you can even dry them into a leather or of course preserve them in Jams, Jellies, Chutneys and Vinegars.

However, after I have eaten my share of fresh Blackberries I like to cook with them. Blackberries are delicious and when you cook with them, the cooked Blackberry can make many more, dare I say it, even more delicious things. When the bushes are heaving with fruits you’ll need to eat as much of them as possible, fortunately they can be eaten at every meal!

Blackberries for Breakfast - Blackberries can simply be added to cereal, blended into a milkshake or cooked down into a rich beautiful sauce to go with Buckwheat pancakes Buckwheat Pancakes with Blackberries and Honey Creme Fraiche

Blackberries for Dinner - The versatile Blackberry also pairs beautifully with savoury dishes, going to particularly well with Game or Duck Wild Duck with Blackberries

Blackberries for Dessert - Or perhaps where they really belong is in desserts; baked into brulee’s and Blackberry Clafoutis, rippled through ice cream or of course baked in a pie! Blackberries can be used in the simplest of desserts or the more complex, why not try something more complicated for a dinner party (Trio of Blackberry Desserts) or mix them with other wild fruits in this Wild Berry Summer pudding  Wild Berry Summer Pudding, and I haven’t even touched on baking!!

The Blackberry or as we now know, ‘family of Blackberries’ could be one of nature’s most generous plants, generous not just because of its plentiful fruit, but also because of its eye catching looks, long fruiting season and widespread and common nature.

The humble Blackberries delicious fruits are accessible to the most experienced of foragers through to the newest and novice of wild food enthusiasts and so can be enjoyed by all. Their versatile flavour is adaptable and lends itself to the sweet as well as the savoury or can just be enjoyed straight from the plant. So many great memories are made up from countless hours rustling around in hedgerows foraging for this black gold and the season starts right now!


…… So what are you waiting for, get your glove and punnets and go get some! 

Wild food home

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