9 Feb 2010

Thinking of blackberries

Once upon a time Milly-Molly-Mandy found some big ripe blackberries on her way home from school. There were six great beauties and one little hard one, so Milly-Molly-Mandy put the hard one in her mouth and carried the others home on a leaf.

She gave one to Father, and Father said, "Ah! That makes me think the time for blackberry puddings has come!"

Then she gave one to Mother and asked what it made her think of. And Mother said, "A whole row of pots of blackberry jam that I ought to have in my store-cupboard!"

Then she gave one to Grandpa, and Grandpa said it made him think "Blackberry tart!"

And Grandma said, "Blackberry jelly!"

And Uncle said, "Stewed blackberry-and-apple!"

And Auntie said, "A plate of blackberries with sugar and cream!"

"My!" thought Milly-Molly-Mandy, as she threw away the empty leaf, "I must get a big, big basket and go blackberrying the very next Saturday, so that there can be lots of puddings and jam and tarts and jelly and stewed blackberry-and-apple and fresh blackberries, for Farver and Muvver and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Auntie - and me! I'll ask Susan to come too."
So the very next Saturday Milly-Molly-Mandy and little-friend-Susan set out with big baskets (to hold the blackberries) and hooked sticks (to pull the brambles nearer) and stout boots (to keep the prickles off) and old frocks (lest the thorns should catch). And they walked and the walked, till they came to a place where they knew there were always lots of blackberries - at the proper time of year, of course.

Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories Joyce Lankester Brisley
That's now, you know, the proper time of year. For blackberries, I mean. We look forward to it every summer, and not only for the delicious rewards that Milly-Molly-Mandy''s family list above, although I must say they do help. We delight in the brambling itself (showing our Scottish roots by the use of that quaint term instead of the rather more proper English blackberrying). There is something inherently satisfying about collecting wild food. We find the same with mushrooms in autumn, and nettles in spring. Wild fennel and prickly pears are good as well.

Of course, foraging for blackberries (along with nettles and prickly pears) requires preparation. Prickle protection preparation. PPP. My father calls bramble bushes lawyers (because their stiff, cruel thorns grab hold of you and won’t let go until they’ve drawn blood.) This is no time for your Gucci. Know also that despite your PPP you will get pricked. They're lawyers, remember. Take bandaids. Once you get home, rub all the red looking areas with tea tree oil to prevent infection. It works a treat.

We also find that plastic take-away containers, though less romantic than a wicker basket, are the best containers for blackberries because once you get more than a few centimetres of fruit it tends to crush under its own weight. Take more than you need. We always meet plenty of curious onlookers eager to join us, and they need containers as well. We met a wonderful couple visiting from Thailand last weekend.

So now we have blackberries. Kilos and kilos of blackberries. We've already eaten them fresh with sugar and cream. We've had them with pavlova. Tonight we're having blackberry clafoutis. You'll find Jemimah's blackberry and apple crumble recipe along with my jam recipe in last year's blackberry ramble. We'll make jam this afternoon.

The rest we've frozen. They'll last all year that way...well...until they're gone, anyhow. I think Father's blackberry pudding sounds marvellous. Grandpa's blackberry tart sounds good as well. What do you think of when you think of blackberries? Do share!

I've also started a discussion about foraging for wild foods at A Peaceful Community. Pop over there and tell us what you collect! I'm keen to make our community work. Will you help me?

This photo is here because it is one of the nicest pictures of my husband that I've seen. Doesn't he look wonderful? Sigh, looking at him here makes me all squirmy inside...


  1. Oh, yum! Nice to have lots of hands.

    Our blackberry bushes are right next to a quarry so I end up picking by myself while the boys play. Completely happy with that arrangement though as their whoops and hollers surely keep the bear away.

    As for your husband, I hope he reads this post through to the end.

  2. You just reminded me I should take the kids down to our 'brambles'. What a great way to spend the afternoon. Our blackberries are on the edge of a dam so I will see if I can't arrange for my eldest to devise a way to get to the juiciest ones over the water without falling in. I shall take my camera! I do hope your hubby will read your post, I feel the same way when I think of or look at my husband too! God Bless em.

  3. Do post your pics, Renelle! The best ones always seem to be over water...

  4. Hi Jeanne,
    We have thornless blackberry bushes growing in our vegie patch, although this last year they flowered but didn't fruit. :(

    I think that the problem was that I sprayed the roses (on the other side of the fence) with pyrethrin to stop aphids, and I think that it killed the bees, so that they weren't pollintated - mind you, I'm looking forward to next year. :D

    Your blackberries look great!
    Have a wonderful and blessed week,

  5. It's nice to see warm, sunny pictures of berrying since outside the window is nothing but frosty white!

  6. I don't think they grow up here? Anyone know? I know we always love to pick the mulberies. No thorns but causes VERY deep purple stains on everything and everyone.
    I love the sound of the delicious foods too. The blackberry and apple crumble has got to be a winner!Your Beloved is very handsome! It would be lovely to see a pic of the two of you? Miss Jemimah always takes a good photo, which is great for your blog.

  7. We picked a handful of wild blackberries yesterday - just enough for my daughter to make blackberry and apple muffins. Our thornless blackberry is producing a few this year - it is still a wild rambly plant though and am wondering how it will be contained in our small garden. Tomorrow we are going picking wild plums and crab apples.
    Hmm........bears - would they be better or worse than tiger snakes - or brown snakes for you Jeanne?

  8. Blackberry Jam for me please...my favourite!!! The kids and I are excited as we can smell Autumn in the air with little mushrooms coming up!

    Great pictures Jeanne and a great family day outing! xxx

  9. I've never seen a blackberry bush before today, sigh:(
    But I'm with Sarah, I love Blackberry jam!

  10. Oh no! I am in a blue funk now for sure!
    My blog seems to be dying and I came over to have some civilized conversation on the frog and it won't let me comment.
    Is this the BIG ReMINDER about precius time wasted on the net. Is my computer teling me to get off?
    I'll be very sad if I can't comment here. Blogfrog won't let me onto the comment form. Getting more and more weird. Me that is!

  11. Oh, I notice I cannot see the clips on your posts bleow so obviously that is something else which has died on my computer! BLUE FUNK indeed!

  12. This reminded me of picking blackberries at my grandmother's hosue when I was a child. The berries grew wild around their farm. We always had blackberry cobbler and then my grandmother made blackberry jelly (made from the fruit juice) that she put up in mason jars to store. Makes me miss her and that whole part of my life.

  13. Makes me want summer and blackberries! B wouldn't read MMM books...not sure why!

  14. I am so very jealous. Black and raspberries are among my most missed items here in Peru... someday I will smuggle a start through customs. I am that desperate.

    Amy in Peru


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