Monday, 17 September 2012

Fruity Fields

We all know local food is good for the environment as it has less far to travel form the field to your door and so less carbon is used in the process. But better than local food is local, organic(-ish?), free food. At this time of year the hedges are full of fruits and berries and a 30 second walk to the end of a family friends' field found me surrounded by blackberries, haws, rose hips and elderberries.  

I'm not a field kitchen professional and I'm not really sure what you can use most of these for so I stuck to blackberry harvesting which to be honest kept me and the boyfriend busy picking for quite long enough! After a while two large bowls were mostly full and we walked back to the house, slightly scrapped and prickled but happy with over 1kg of easily picked fruit. 

If you have a chance over the next few weeks, go blackberrying. There's honestly no better way to spend time on a fine day in autumn (except maybe collection conkers). You can take a whole afternoon and a picnic with friends or a few minutes grabbing as many as possible before adding them to ice cream or making a smoothie at home. You don't even need to be in the country, I remember last year picking just enough blackberries from hedges on rough ground in Preston to make a crumble with some apples from a local friend, but I think country berries away from roads taste much nicer and juicier. And don't forget to look at the wildlife around you while you're picking! Today we saw a buzzard, heard songbirds in the hedges and made friends with a (not very wild) horse. Just being outside is a joy at this time of year, so take a few seconds to rest from the picking and enjoy the view.

Steve Daniels, via Wikimedia Commons
[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (] 

There's no dress code for blackberry picking but for some reason I always feel like a red woolly jumper and  blue jeans are what I should be wearing, maybe it's from some childhood picture. The only really important thing is that you're wearing clothes that don't matter if they get stained by berry juice and preferably ones that are nettle and bramble resistant (it just means you get a few less stings and prickles if you're reaching into a bush for that perfect berry). My new coat stood up to the challenge and other than my hands I hardly got any  prickles this year. I'm quite cavalier with my picking and will happily brush aside nettles and reach into thorny   corners to get to the best of the crop, I only notice all the scratches once I'm home and I've found the best thing for those annoying little hurts is a bowl of warm to hot soapy water and a good soak. 

Picking blackberries is enjoyable enough that I almost forget I've got the added pleasure of cooking and eating them once I get home. There's so many things you can do with autumn fruit, summer pudding is one of my favourite but a nice simple blackberry and apple pie or crumble has got to come close to top too. If you're feeling a bit less traditional you can make smoothies, ice cream or if you can't wait for them to cook just eat them as they are!

So now, with the smell of sausages, mash and beans coming from the kitchen I'm off to cook the fruits of my labours for pudding, and then eat them!

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