Your guide to foraging for blackberries

WHEN TO GO BLACKBERRYING
We often think of blackberries as an autumn fruit, but in the UK, they can in fact be found from July – certainly in warmer areas like cities – until mid- or even late-September in the countryside.

WHERE TO LOOK
Blackberries can be found all over: parks, heaths, footpaths, towpaths, and even industrial wasteland – sometimes the finest bounty can be found in the most unexpected, neglected place. The excellent map on the Falling Fruit website might help you to find your local patch (select ‘Rubus’ in the filter). Or if you want to share a good foraging spot, you can add it to the map.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
You want glossy, dark berries. The plumper they are, the sweeter and tastier they are likely to be. The fruit you want will come away from the bush easily when you give it a little tug; if the berry resists, it’s probably not ready to be picked just yet.

WHAT TO AVOID
Steer clear of blackberries that are green or red, as they are not yet ripe. If a berry is dull in colour or if the drupelets (the little round segments that a blackberry is made up of) are a bit shrivelled, it has probably gone over. Don’t pick berries from beside a busy road as they will likely be tainted by car fumes. And definitely avoid any fruit that is in the ‘dog wee’ zone! That’s usually the lowest couple of feet of the bush.

COVER UP
Brambles are spiky! It’s best to cover up your arms and legs to avoid any nasty scratches. Jeans and a hoodie are ideal. Practical, protective footwear is a must. Avoid wearing anything that might snag, like wool.

LOOK OUT FOR CREEPY CRAWLIES
Brambles are often home to spiders and other bugs. Keep an eye out for webs – reaching for a tempting berry only to find that you’ve just plunged your hand onto a huge spider is a real joy-killer.

MAKE FRIENDS WITH A TALL PERSON
The biggest, ripest blackberries are often just a little out of reach! Go foraging with your tallest friend to get the pick of the bunch 😉

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Remember the golden rule for foragers: never take all of the produce from one particular spot. Take a few berries and then move on, to ensure that plenty is left for the people who come after you.

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WHAT NEXT?
When you get home, give your blackberries a gentle rinse and use them as soon as you can (we can all learn from Seamus Heaney here). They also freeze well; after washing, spread the berries out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and pop into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, you can move them into a storage container until you need them.

There are so many delicious recipes for blackberries. Why not try my absolute favourite here (it won a prize!)? And keep an eye out for more blackberry recipes coming to the blog very soon.

Happy foraging!

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