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Monday, July 23, 2007

The rise of the humble blackberry

There are very few good things in life that are free. Blackberries are one of them. I was interested to read today that demand for the fruit has grown by 15% in the last year. Sadly though the word blackberry has been hijacked by the accursed BlackBerry hand-held. And the innocent, delicious pastime of "blackberrying" has probably all but disappeared. I doubt if the young even realise you can help yourself to very fine blackberries in the wild rather than going to Sainsburys to buy cultivated punnets from countries like Mexico and Holland, for around £1.99.

But blackberrying can still be done, and a fine pastime it is.

When I grew up in Devon everyone was at it. My dad was an avid blackberryer, and even when emphysema had taken hold, he was still blackberrying, although one time he tripped into a bramble and was virtually held upside down while my mother ran screeching for help.

Where we live, in a leafy suburb of London, there are brambles everywhere. Look, I cry to John as we go out for a walk. Look at all those brambles! We must come back when they're ripe with suitable receptacles.

He humours me while dreading that I may mean it, because I get the impression that taking nature's bounty is not the done thing in this neck of the woods. Last year a piece of wasteground near the garage yielded an absolute bounty of the black beauties and I was in there, happy to get scratched, pushing my way through the brambles to get to the juicier specimens at the back of the bushes.

Unfortunately that was the first and only time because that little piece of wasteground then became a shrine to the car (someone else's) and was hastily stamped out.

And what delicious things were made from blackberries when I was young! Bramble seedless (jam without the pips); blackberry and apple pie; blackberry and apple crumble. Now I have them stewed on my breakfast cereal. I do buy them from Sainsburys but no matter where they come from, Mexico, France or UK, the cultivated ones don't taste anything like the wild blackberries.

So I'm looking forward to the time when they ripen, although I imagine the lack of sun is probably not helping. I'm not telling you all where the bushes are because if you've got any sense you'll be out there too with your Tupperware. Just don't try to pick them when they've gone over. A Devonshire saying is (and excuse me for this), if you leave them too long, the devil piddles on them.

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