Countryside walks are so rewarding in the pleasant autumn sun. Leaves are starting to turn red, orange and yellow, and bushes are full of all sorts of berries. It is easy to find some blackberries alongside countryside lanes and roads. Blackberry hedges are hardy and invasive plants. They easily take over nice sunny spots when they are not regulated and often grow in large quantities. If looking for blackberries, try hillsides, countryside lanes, wood borders and hedgerows.
The end of summer throughout September is the best time to pick blackberries. It's when this fruit is at its peak in most of the UK. We always collect only dark-coloured berries that pull off easily from the branch. Those are the sweetest. Any under-ripe, red-coloured fruit will taste very sour/tart and put the kids from eating them.
The ripe berries are soft and juicy and easily stain fingers and clothes. Moreover, blackberry plants are thorny dense bushes growing untidy and tangled. It's easy for kids to get scratched by trying to reach the best-looking berries. Therefore, I prefer when my children wear clothes with long trousers and sleeves that can get dirty.
learn how to recognise a blackberry bush
Make sure your children (especially young ones) know what the blackberry hedge looks like, and don't mistake blackberry for any other dark-coloured berries. Point out how the plant grows, its leaves' shape and the berries' colour. Spot each berry's different stages before it becomes juicy, dark purple/black fruit. Red-coloured berries might look inviting, but their taste will disappoint. It's easy to find all the berry stages (from green and red to dark black) on the same bush as it produces fruit continuously.
talk about interesting facts
Together try to think about what kind of animals enjoy eating blackberries.
Hint: These juicy berries are popular with all sorts of birds and insects and animals like squirrels, mice, hedgehogs, foxes and even deer.
Animals help to spread the plant seeds far from the parent plant. They can be carried on the feet of birds or animal fur. Another way how the seeds are dispersed is in animal droppings.
You can discuss with children how our ancestors used to preserve fruit to enjoy it past their season and benefit from its vitamins.
Hint: You kids might be surprised that people have to learn to preserve food without a fridge/freezer.
The easiest way was to sun dry the berries.
Recipes for the first jam date back to ancient Greece. Sailors and pirates alike use to take jam on their sailing adventures as fresh fruit didn’t last long, and jam provided the sailors with important vitamin C.
But sugar was an expensive commodity, so medieval people often sealed the fruit in more affordable honey.
The method of preserving the fruit by boiling it in an airtight jar was discovered during the Napoleonic wars (early 19th century) when it was necessary to feed a large number of soldiers and provide them with important vitamins to keep them strong.
And while you are foraging for blackberries, don’t forget to enjoy the outdoors. Let your kids run around and release some steam. Give them all the freedom so they can appreciate the countryside and fresh air. It will give you a little bit of time to unwind too.
Here is an idea for a simple blackberry snack that kids can prepare by themself using sugar and yoghurt.
Simple Blackberry Snack
- Icing sugar
- Greek style yoghurt
- Desiccated coconut
- Rinse blackberries under cold water. For Wild blackberries it's better to leave them submerged in cold water for 2 - 3 minutes to get rid off all uninvited insects.
- Let the blackberries dry a bit.
- Generously coat them with icing sugar.
- Spoon greek style yoghurt into a bowl.
- Lay blackberries over the yoghurt.
- Sprinkle them with a pinch of cinnamon and designated coconut.
- Dust them with more icing sugar if still very sour.