Blackberries

Björnbär

A dish of blackberries

I love to go blackberrying, admittedly it is partly for nostalgic reasons. Back in the 70s, before cheap flights, credit cards and 'holes in the wall', we would go camping in France and when the money was running short we would eek out our remaining funds by picking blackberries.

Today I am lucky enough to be more affluent and so I just go blackberrying because I just enjoying picking the berries on a sunny late summer's day. Yes, you can buy cultivated blackberries in the supermarket but they are not nearly as tasty, so it is worth battling with the thorns to pick the wild berries.

Bear berries

Björnbär means, literally, bear berries. In fact bears eat blåbär (wild blueberries, called bilberries in the UK) more than björnbär, but bears need to eat a lot of berries to surivive and they certainly do like blackberries.

Northern European berries v. North American berries

Northern European blackberries are much smaller than their north American cousins, but are similar in flavour. I've picked some monster blackberries growing wild in Canada and I have to admit that they are juicier but just as tasty as the blackberries we can pick on this side of the pond.

Choosing the right berries

Blackberries growing a hedgerow in southern England

Blackberries are really an invasive weed and so they spread everywhere and thrive under virtually all conditions. Look for blackberries growing in a traffic free area and preferably in a sunny spot as they tend to be juicier.

To be ready for picking they must be so ripe that the almost drop into your hand when you merely touch them. (I think there is really only one blackberry ready for picking in the photo above.)  Don't be tempted to pick them just because they are black: wait until they are almost bursting and full of juice. Of course, this means that they are difficult to transport home so use lots of small containers to avoid the berries being squashed under their own weight.

Freezing

Blackberries freeze well, so abundant pickings can be savoured over a whole year. Just pick them over when you get home and pop them into the freezer.

Growing your own

The good news is that most cultivated blackberries are thornless, with a less spreading habit, than wild blackberries. The bad news is that unfortunately they have less flavour, so I don't think they are worth growing.

Cooking partners

Blackberries can be rather bland on their own but they go particularly well with apples, other berries or something acidic.

Venison with blackberries

Venison with blackberries

Venison with blackberries is an easy dish to prepare and is one of my favourite venison dishes. The use of balsamic vinegar and redcurrant jelly really brings out the flavour of the blackberries. More...

Blackberry and elderflower cocktail

Blackberry and elderflower cocktail

If you muddle some blackberries and then add lemon juice, Sapphire gin, St Germain liqueur and top up with ice and soda water you will have a superb cocktail, definitely one of my favourites.

The non-alcoholic version is a fabulous refreshing drink on a late summer's afternoon. Take me to the recipes >>>

Blackberry and almond tart

Blackberry and almond tart

Blackberries are usually a sideshow but occasionally they deserve pride of place as in this tart. The pastry is really easy to make because it uses melted butter which gives it a really luxurious taste, almost like shortbread, and yet it is so easy to make and doesn't even need baking blind! The almonds bring out the flavour of the blackberries, but only need to be sprinkled on to the pastry. It really is easy-peasy! More…

Blackberry muffins

Two blackberry muffins on a plate

Try our recipe for blackberry muffins topped with toasted almonds. They are best served when still warm but they can be reheated in a microwave and they also freeze well. More…

John Duxbury

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