Does anyone go blackberry picking any more?
It seems that the ancient art of foraging is in decline but in these tricky economic times, it makes perfect sense to collect free food from the hedgerows (especially when supermarkets are charging £1.99 per punnet of blackberries)
The hedgerows seem to be particularly well-laden with fruit this year too. I wonder if the early, warm spring (which now seems like a very distant memory) had something to do with it? But whatever the reason, now is the time to be out hunting for wild food.
Blackberries are delicious at this time of year.
Blackberries are ripening at this time of year and if you can beat the birds and insects to them, there's plenty for the taking. There are plenty of things to do with them too - from crumbles to ice cream and delicious smoothies.
Traditionally, they were used to treat colds and coughs and other respiratory ailments. When picking, watch out for thorns, avoid bushes alongside busy roads (pollution) and leave lower-lying berries alone as dogs may well have sprayed them.
Traditional folklore states that October 10 is the cut-off point for blackberrying as that was when the devil urinated on them, so you've still got plenty of time to gather your harvest!
You can find a few recipes for sloe gin on the BBC Food website but here's a simple one for you to try: All you need are 450g/ 1lb sloes, 225g/ 8oz castor and one litre of gin.
Sloe berries in the hedgerows, ready for picking. Image by Rachael Garside.
Prick the tough skin of the sloes all over with a clean needle and put in a large sterilised jar. However the king of foraging, Huw Fearnley-Whittingstall says you don't have to do this and that a night in the freezer will break the skins for you)
Pour in the sugar and the gin, seal tightly and shake well. Store in a cool, dark cupboard and shake every other day for a week. Then shake once a week for two months.
It all sounds incredibly simple and if you make it now, your batch will be ready in time for Christmas - now that's what I call forward-planning!
So, go and spend an hour getting your fingers stained purple and reap the rewards. It's also something the whole family can get involved in and the kids will love it.