Freely available from Irish hedgerows, blackberries are one of the easiest foods to forage and are a taste of childhood for many of us. Not only are they delicious, they are also packed full of antioxidants, and provide many other health benefits. Whether you buy them from the shop or manage to pick them yourself, blackberries are a fruit worth incorporating into your diet. This handy guide should have you cooking with them like a pro in no time.
- First things first, make sure you’re not trespassing on private property.
- Bring several tubs, especially if you’re planning on picking a lot; it’s best not to layer them too deeply to avoid crushing those on the bottom.
- Avoid bushes beside busy roads and berries low enough to be sprayed by passing dogs.
- It can be hard to resist raiding each hedgerow, but it’s best to spread your picking out a little, leaving some berries on each bush for birds, other pickers and so the bush can reproduce.
- The best berries will be fat, swollen, dark and glossy.
- If you keep them dry and store them in the fridge, blackberries should last for 2-3 days.
- Let them come to room temperature before eating, as they’ll taste juicier and sweeter that way. Wash and dry them before eating.
- Blackberries are easily frozen and can be baked straight from the freezer with no need to defrost. Freeze on a tray in a single layer, then transfer to a sealable bag.
- There are countless sweet options besides pies and crumbles. Drizzle coulis over ice cream or pancakes, or layer whole berries with smashed meringues and cream for a twist on an Eton Mess.
- Start the day by adding blackberries to pancakes or muffins, or whizz them into a smoothie with bananas, milk and other fruit.
- Blackberries also taste delicious served with savoury foods; try making a simple blackberry sauce for red meats like lamb, duck, beef or venison.
- Use blackberries to add a touch of sweetness to a summer salad, either whole or in a vinaigrette.
- Liven up a cheeseboard by decorating with blackberries; not only do they provide a nice colour contrast, but they taste great with goat’s cheese, fresh Mascarpone and Ricotta or salty Feta and Halloumi.
- Make flavoured alcohol: mash them lightly with sugar, then sieve into a bottle and top up with vodka or gin. Alternatively, use frozen blackberries to make delicious daiquiri-style cocktails.
If you like the idea of something different with your first blackberry harvest, this blackberry, thyme and chia seed jam is just the thing. Or, if you prefer the traditional route, a blackberry and apple jam is a classic combination: tart, sweet and oh-so-easy to make.
Always a family favourite, these individual blackberry and plum crumbles will not disappoint.
Once you’ve mastered the art of making syrups, you might want to try your hand at this spectacular lemon and yoghurt cake with blackberry sauce.
If you haven’t got much of a sweet tooth, not to worry, blackberries can be a powerful flavour enhancer for many savoury dishes. If you really want to impress, this wild boar belly with balsamic blackberry jus and watercress salad will have even the most discerning of foodies coming back for seconds.