Louise Minchin on the joys of autumn fruit picking
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:52 21 September 2017
The BBC TV presenter's joy of blackberrying has not changed much since her childhood, but her recipes with the fruit are a little livelier...
At this time of year, there is something deeply satisfying about searching for, finding and picking the fat juicy blackberries that decorate and weigh down the crawling tendrils of what some people might consider to be an irritating invasive weed.
As a child, foraging for the fruit was the backbone of our late summer weekends. It was an occupation my parents took very seriously, almost like a competitive sport. They loved it, and so did we.
We lived in the middle of a town, so we couldn’t just wander up to the nearest bramble bus and feast, but had to approach it like an expedition, timing our trip carefully, so the berries would be ripe but not all eaten by the birds. There was always a sense of intense excitement, and anticipation as we set off into the countryside, car laden with an array of plastic bowls and Tupperware to store our treasure. Would the blackberries be there? Would we come home empty handed?
Or, would we spend happy hours chatting together, as our small hands navigated their way carefully through sharp prickles to bag the prize, and stuff the succulent shiny jewels into our mouths. If we had been blessed with a good picking day, we would return home with our faces and fingers stained purple and enjoy a scrumptious blackberry crumble, laced with thick double cream.
I still love picking blackberries now, and know where all the most productive bushes are hidden near home. I have only changed one thing to my approach, I have added blackberry infused vodka to my favourite recipes!
The National Trust chose blackberry picking as number 21 in its list of 50 activities to do before you are 11 and 3/4, but I would put it much higher. In an age where fruit comes in uniform sizes, chilled and wrapped in plastic, and you can buy anything you want at any time or the year, independent of the seasons, it reminds me that actually some of the best things in life are free. How much better do blackberries taste when you have put in the effort and foraged the fruit yourself? If you are passing one of our beautiful Cheshire hedgerows, abundant with the fruits of summer sunshine, why not stop for a second and grab yourself a handful?