Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How to: Mrs J's Guide to blackberry picking!!!

Depending on where you live in the UK there should be blackberries of varying ripeness all around you now and here is my own little guide to harvesting them....


Find Locations - Blackberries are regularly found in hedgerows, try paths, car parks, waste / scrub land, overgrown allotments and gardens.....If you are too late to pick this year, note where you have seen the bushes and regularly check them throughout next summer for progress.

Supplies - You'll need some pots to collect your berries in. I generally recommend a rag or piece of kitchen towel in the bottom to collect juice / bugs.

Clothing - wear old clothes, ideally long sleeved and trousers too. Don't forget to wear shoes not sandals and you'll be able to get in better areas. This is do as I say not as I do... last trip I wore sandals cotton skirt and white linen top!!!!! Luckily I'm well practiced so couldn't resist and impromptu pick!

Freezer - If you are not using your berries straight away you can freeze them till you have enough for a recipe. Make sure you have enough room to flash freeze them on trays on your return.

Helpers - In my opinion you're best off doing this by yourself, children eat all they collect and husbands even though they can reach higher are quickly bored - yes Mr J I mean you!!!


Blackberries are best harvested on a sunny dry day. Before you start picking, walk up and down the whole of the hedgerow. Blackberries often vary vastly in their ripeness even over a hedge of 50ft. In early September my favourite hedgerow has ripe succulent berries at one end and bushes still flowering at the other!! Pick the ripest berries first, come back regularly (I do every 3 days). A great ti is to look from various angles and heights into the bushes, I discovered my 5 yr old son was getting a great haul because the best blackberries grow under the leaves of the bush, and that's the angle he could see and I couldn't!!!!!!

Beware of:-

Prickles - wild brambles have thorns, watch where you put your hands or wear gloves!!
Foragers Thumb - the juice will stain your finger a lovely shade of purple!!
Nettles - Blackberries often grow above stinging nettles and the nettles intertwine with the ripest fruit. Or to quote Little Miss Jones

" Come to Blackberry World get a free ticket to Stingerland!!!!"

Cover yourself in long sleeves and trousers, and watch where you put your hands.
Wildlife - be careful not to disturb nature to much (nests and other plants) and watch out for wildlife on the blackberries wasps and fruit flies feast on the overripe berries and little grubs can live inside them. If this concerns you make sure you give everything a quick wash when you get home, I can't stop my kids eating shiny ripe ones off the bush!!!!!

What are your best tips for picking blackberries????

Friday, 4 September 2009

A difficult decision.

Nine months ago we took on the challenge of living without a refridgerator. For most of this time we have survived quite well. We progressed from iceblocks in a cool box to an insulated cupboard on an outside wall, regular swapping of iceblocks ensured that for the most our food was chilled and all was well. But, over the summer, things haven't kept so well. Food has spoiled quickly and I've had to throw it away.
At the start of September I decided to reintroduce a fridge to our household. It is smaller than our original fridge, and secondhand from freecycle. When we need to replace it we will buy an A rated one.
Living without the fridge, we kept very little in it and food spoiled. Now I can keep leftovers to eat the next day without freezing them , chill fresh produce when needed and make homemade yoghurt that won't go off before we've finished it!!!!!

It was a difficult decision but I think, for us, at this point in time, the right one.