Blackberry Picking, one of late poet Seamus Heaney’s most beloved pieces of work, evokes memories of childhoods spent in late summer harvesting precious gems from amid the thorns of brambles. Heaney describes “palms sticky as Bluebeard’s”, the taste of “summer’s blood” and “big dark blobs”. So as the UK summer slowly draws to a close, the spindly veins of hedgerows and bushes are reaching out with their blackberries. Areas in the south of the country are already experiencing rashes of glossy fruit, easily accessible and free.
Widely seen as the first indicator of autumn’s presence, blackberries are highly versatile, and can be used extensively in sweet and savoury dishes, as well as in drinks and homemade beauty products. Historic and forensic evidence indicates the presence of blackberries in human diets for thousands of years. Long hailed as a superfood, humble blackberries take their deep purple-black colour from anthocyanins which are proven to assist and maintain memory function. Outside of formal cultivation arrangements, they grow widely across Europe and the health benefits of blackberries are manifold: high in fibre, they are also packed full of phenolic acids with powerful anti-carcinogenic properties, containing the highest amount of antioxidants of all fruits, and a source of calcium, in tandem with Vitamins A, C and K.
The nutritional benefits of blackberries can also be harnessed not only through food, but from applications to the skin via DIY treats. Blackberries provide such a wealth of vitamins and phytochemicals like anthocyanocides and polyphenols that the effects of using them can assist anti-ageing, cell regeneration and maintaining skin elasticity.
Blackberries freeze well so hoarding away in freezers allows for easy future use. Add blackberries to smoothies and salads for a vitamin and antioxidant boost; mix or steep with alcohol for a couple of months to produce fruity, warming liqueurs perfect for the winter months, or add to a crumble from frozen for a comfort food fix on a cold day.
Try out some of the best recipes using this wonderful fruit: