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.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.
Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories Joyce Lankester Brisley
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...