Blackberries have always been a favourite on my early autumn walks - and they’re ripe for the picking right now. If you don’t know much about this delicious and healthy wild fruit, blackberries grow wild in surrounding forests areas, in shrubs and hedges along the roadside around the countryside. At least they do in northern Europe where there are so many different varieties that only specialists can tell them apart from each other, which is about 60 kinds in all - that’s not counting the varieties the rest of the world has to offer.
From August to October blackberries over here can be harvested to make jams, tarts, syrups, smoothies, cordials and toddies for cold winter evenings by the fire. Pick the berries with care as many of them have long thorns that can easily snag your clothes and skin - wear thick gardening gloves and an old jacket. Generally there are berries enough, but it’s best only to pick the plump, deep purple, ripe berries as they don’t ripen once they’re picked. Choose picking areas that are not near the farmers’ fields and crop sprays and it’s best to keep away from busy highways too, due to fuel pollution.
The fresh berries are filled with antioxidants and are very healthy, containing a great deal of A and C vitamin, they stimulate the digestive system, as well as do a grand job of flushing out fluids, urine and impurities from the body.
Blackberry leaves can also be used; young leaves are best, as the older leaves contain too much tannin and aren’t very good for the intestinal system.
Dried blackberries leaves are renowned for cleaning the blood. Tea made with blackberry leaves is a very good remedy for diarrhoea in contrast to the fruit, which is quite the opposite and is very effective against constipation.
Making an extract of the leaves soaked in boiling water can be used for gurgling against throat infections. Homemade blackberries nip or toddy warms on a cold day is a favourite and can be made in the the following way:
700 gram blackberries 250 grams of honey (cold pressed) 1 litre of vodka rind from 1 organic lemon
Place the blackberries and lemon rind into a glass jar together with the honey. Pour the vodka over the blackberries and make sure they are submerged.
Leave this mixture we’ll call a toddy for at least a month, gently shaking the jar now and then. Filter it and you’re ready to taste a drink of the gods.
If you want to avoid alcohol altogether, you can make your own blackberry syrup as follows:
250 grams blackberry juice 500 grams cold pressed honey
Mix the juice and honey and let it heat up until it gets a sirupy consistency. Use it in periods when you feel a little under the weather or take a spoonful every day for better digestion.
Blackberries are easily frozen in freeze-bags or what you use in your part of the world, just make sure that as much air is taken out of the bag as possible, before sealing. Washing the berries is just as simple, but if you’re afraid of bugs, soak them in water with a little salt. Although you do need to be careful that the berries aren’t over ripe as they can get mushy very quickly when submerged in water, but once frozen they keep well for months in the freezer.
If you want to keep each piece of fruit whole, place the berries on a flat dish making sure they aren’t on top of each other and place the flat tray or dish in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Take the berries out where each one is nicely frozen and can be packed and frozen easily.
Get out in the fresh air on your bike or walking and collect berries before the season ends (around end of September over here). You can use the berries for all kinds of homemade goodies i.e. cordials, smoothies, blackberry muffins, or jars of wild blackberry jam given as gifts to friends and family during the winter. They will love it.