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Blackberries: Recipe and where to pick

PUBLISHED: 12:28 26 September 2016 | UPDATED: 17:03 29 September 2016

Blackberries © National Trust/ Justin Minns

Blackberries © National Trust/ Justin Minns

© National Trust/ Justin Minns

What could be nicer at this time of year than a spot of blackberry picking? Here’s a guide to some of the best places in Kent

Blackberry picking © National Trust/ John MillarBlackberry picking © National Trust/ John Millar

One of the most enduring sights of the British countryside in early autumn is the emergence of swathes of blackberries in fields and hedgerows.

With blackberries rich in antioxidants that can help keep skin looking youthful and healthy, they are also a perfect ingredient for juicing.

Blackberry picking has been particularly popular in recent years with the rise of foraging courses across the UK. There are a number here in Kent, including Rural Courses (www.ruralcourses.co.uk), run by Michael White around his home in Frittenden. And Fergus Drennan aka ‘Fergus the Forager’ (www.fergustheforager.co.uk) regularly hosts foraging events in the Canterbury and Herne Bay areas.

©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

Pick Your Own farms are another great way to pick blackberries; Lower Ladysden Farm in Goudhurst, Chilton Manor near Sittingbourne and Foxendown Farm in Meopham are among farms in Kent where you can currently find them.

The blackberry season traditionally runs through until early/mid-October: time to stock up!

Cooking apples and blackberries ©National Trust Images/William ShawCooking apples and blackberries ©National Trust Images/William Shaw

Foraging

Advice from Michael White, of Rural Courses.

- Pick early in the season, as soon as there are plenty of ripe berries, as the quality of the fruit produced by the plants declines over time

©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson

- Look for bramble patches in sunny locations, as the fruit will be sweeter.

- Avoid places where agricultural sprays are used, eg edges of arable fields and orchards.

- There are many sub-species of bramble, so look around before you start. Some plants produce plumper, sweeter blackberries than others

©National Trust Images/Justin Minns©National Trust Images/Justin Minns

- You are legally allowed to pick blackberries where there is public access such as footpaths, or road sides. To pick on private land you must have the land owners’ permission.

When you return home with your blackberries, submerse them in water and gently swirl around for a minute or so to help remove dirt and small grubs. Place the berries in a sieve or colander and repeat the soaking process another two to three times. Spread the berries out on paper towels or a fabric cloth and leave to soak up the moisture.

Freezing works well. Once dry, lay the berries out on a tray then put in the freezer. When frozen, bag up the berries. Freezing separately on a tray to begin with allows you to easily take out the exact amount of berries required.

Blackberries also make the basis of some great drinks. Rural Courses runs a Blackberry Cordial Making Experience and a Hedgerow Wine-Making Course, www.ruralcourses.co.uk.

Sonia Frost from Bringing Alive Sandwich Heritage (BASH) ran a series of Wild Food Walks in the Sandwich area in 2008-2009 as part of a community project. This included the Bramble Ramble, when blackberries were picked to be made into jam for participants to take home.

She advises: “There is excellent blackberrying to be had in the hedgerows of Richborough, and some good roadside picking in the Woodnesborough area, although this is less accessible.

“If you are looking further afield, there are some very tangled but fruitful coastal patches in Pegwell Bay (be mindful of conservation areas).”

When foraging, safety should be paramount. Avoid picking berries from potentially dangerous situations such as on the side of steep embankments, next to busy roads or by cliff edges.

Don’t eat fruit before it has been thoroughly washed, and as a general rule, only pick berries above knee height which are unlikely to have been splashed by rain hitting the ground or urinated on by dogs and other animals.

Recipe

Lemongrass crème brûlée with honeycomb and a blackberry foam

Adam Turley, Executive Chef, The Bull Hotel in Wrotham

www.thebullhotel.com

For the brûlée

500ml milk

175g sugar

500ml double cream

8 sticks lemongrass, beaten and chopped

15 egg yolks

Bring to boil milk and 75g sugar and in a separate pan, bring to boil double cream and lemon grass. Once boiling, remove from the heat and cover both mixtures with cling film and infuse for 45 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and 100g sugar until really thick and creamy, then slowly add the milk and sugar mix while it’s still boiling. Slowly add the lemongrass cream, and chill.

Pre-heat the oven to 95ºC. Fill a deep oven tray with water 2cm deep and bring to the boil. Pour the mix in a 130ml rectangular silicone mould until it is 4cm deep. Place a kitchen cloth in the bottom of the bain-marie to protect the crème mix. Place the crème mix in the bain-marie and cook in the oven for 65 minutes. Once cooked remove from the bain-marie and let cool room temperature. Freeze overnight, and turn out the moulds on to crushed honeycomb. Allow to defrost in the fridge

For the honeycomb

75g honey

140g liquid glucose

400g castor sugar

5 tbsp water- 150c

18g bicarbonate soda

Place all ingredients together (except the bicarb) and boil. When smooth, whisk in the bi-carb and pour onto a non-stick mat. Leave to cool at room temperature until it is set.

For the foam

200ml blackberry coulis

60ml crème de cassis

60ml stock syrup

4g lecithin

Place all ingredients together and blend with a small stick blender to create the foam.

For the tuille

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Grate a piece of honeycomb through a sieve on to the mould, place in the oven for 10 – 15 seconds until the caramels melt together. Leave to cool on the tray and only remove when you need them.

To finish

One scoop of vanilla ice cream, melted chocolate for brushing and piping, three macerated (softened by soaking) blackberries per portion, a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.

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