Blackberries! It’s time to go brambling

First published by Rattan Direct on 28 August 2016.

Blackberries are quite delicious. You can grow them in your garden but, for me, blackberries from the hedgerow or from brambles growing over from the neighbour’s garden are the best.

As so often with plants, names and terms vary across the country. Blackberries = brambles. Brambling = blackberrying. Brambles = the fruit or the thorny stem.

Blackberries are ready now

In many places brambles are fruiting now although it will be a bit later as you go further north, or higher up the hillsides. In some lucky places they have been fruiting for a few weeks.

Blackberries, Hanney Road, Steventon, Oxfordshire
Blackberries, Hanney Road, Steventon, Oxfordshire
© Steve Daniels and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Licence.

How to go blackberrying – old style

You will need:

  • A bowl or a basin or a plastic container of some kind (an empty sandwich box after you’ve had a picnic is ideal).
  • A walking stick with a curved end to pull the out-of-reach and particularly delicious-looking fruit close enough to pick.
  • Sensible footwear, perhaps, but it’s quite possible to go brambling in flip-flops. It all adds to the danger (see next section).

You can go it alone or you can do it in company.

Blackberries picked on Wart Hill, Edgton, Shropshire
Blackberries picked on Wart Hill, Edgton, Shropshire.
© Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.

Blackberrying – the dangers

There are no two ways about it, blackberrying is a risky business. Be prepared.

I outline some of the major and minor dangers below but be warned that this is not a full and comprehensive list.

  1. You eat more blackberries than you collect in your basin and don’t have very many to take home.
  2. Your helpers eat more brambles than they collect in their basins. This is a particular problem with helpers under, say, the age of 12.
  3. You drop your basin and the blackberries roll all over the place, including in the ditch.
  4. You are attacked by rogue brambles. Some have vicious thorns and they can draw blood.
  5. You enter the Trance of the Serious Picker. You only see the berries, you don’t see anything else, you become a one person picking machine.
  6. Someone else has got there first.
  7. You pick blackberries when it’s raining, or when they are damp. They might be fly-blown so you could be picking maggots, surrounded by blackberry. Dicey.
  8. You pick blackberries low down – said by some people to be polluted by dogs and/or car exhausts. Eating these blackberries you will end up mad, one way or another.
  9. You pick blackberries after the end of August/September/October/another date (this varies around the country). This is an intensely foolish thing to do as these blackberries have been spat on by witches or worse.

Blackberrying and blackberries – the pleasures

Blackberry pie and ice cream. Blackberries
Blackberry pie and ice cream
© Rei at English Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  1. It’s best to go blackberrying when the sun is on the fruit. And so the sun will be on you. You’ll feel relaxed and in tune with the world.
  2. Finding and picking the ripest, warmest blackberry and eating it yourself is one of life’s pleasures. You can, of course, offer them around to your helpers who are usually appreciative (unless they have entered the Trance of the Serious Picker – see above).
  3. Blackberry and apple crumble. This is, to my mind, even better than just blackberry crumble. The apple adds another layer of deliciousness and it makes the blackberries stretch further.
  4. Blackberry tart or blackberry pie, with or without ice-cream. A neighbour always has this as part of Christmas dinner. Tucked away in the freezer, the blackberries come out as part of the Christmas preparations.
  5. Blackberries and cream. I recommend clotted or double cream for a really lovely and indulgent pudding.
  6. Blackberry jelly. This is startling good but disappears quite quickly. (Blackberry jam is also good but rather full of pips.)

My birthday falls over this late summer bank holiday weekend. Weather permitting, my present to myself will be to go blackberrying and to find some clotted cream. I may share the spoils but, then again, I may keep them all to myself.


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