Thursday, August 16, 2007

Brambling

I studied Seamus Heaney at school. His bog body poems may have been thought-provoking but I much preferred Blackberry Picking; it was something I could relate to. Like Seamus and his pals, we would pick industrial quantities of the black sweet fruit. Ours didn’t go to waste: I made soggy-crusted pies and crumbles with topping that was too thin, so purple juice seeped to the surface like blood through a bandage.

There is something inescapably bloody about brambles; as Seamus says, they look like ‘a plate of eyes’: much more macabre than desiccated bodies in the peat. Brambling always makes me feel somewhat like the prince in Sleeping Beauty, fighting through the thorns to reach the prize. Fingertips turn red, clothing is snagged, burrs stick to sleeves and no matter how hard you try to avoid them, the nettles always sting you. I don’t know what sort of protection racket the nettles have going, but wherever there are brambles, you can be assured they’ll be there too.

I picked my first brambles of the year tonight. There weren't many in the usual place so I tried another spot where I had spied them from the Grey Mare’s back. I started off picking anything that looked ripe then, as I found more fruit hiding under thorns and dry grass, I became more finickity about the specimens that made it into the bowl. Truth to tell, there weren’t as many as I’d hoped; but there were enough to bake into a crumble with apples from the garden. Hopefully, this one won’t leak around the edges.

24 comments:

Stay at home dad said...

I haven't read Blackberry Picking but it amazes me how one day they're not ready and the next day ripe. I'll go and read it.

Jez Bell said...

Crikey, Im confused. Blackberry week to me was always the October half term and presumably cos thats when Blackberrys were picked. But they are ripe now?! Was it a myth, have I made it up or is it down to global warming....??

Mopsa said...

Ours aren't ready yet, but there are signs that this will be a glut year. Crumble, clafoutis, pie, and jam jam jam.

lady macleod said...

that sounds delicious, i love blackberries. Q had some encounters with the brambles when she was wee, they are indeed like the bane of the prince.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

I too did Heaney, the bog man in Aarhus wasn't it? It seems really early for blackberries...they are just tempting us here in Normandy, promising us more in September.
Pigx

DJ Kirkby said...

I've got a recipe for beautiful blackberry ice cream. Glad to hear you suffer from soggy crumble too! I never thought of trying to put a thicker topping on, will do that next time.

@themill said...

Ah, The Forge was my favourite.
Love Bramble'n'apple crumble - but in August? It's just not right somehow!

muddyboots said...

yes we have blackberries too, used to be facinated by bog bodies, we have a drained kettlehole lake here & l often wonder did the celts throw in treasure & is there anything else lurking in the peat?

mutterings and meanderings said...

SAHD, they're very bitty at the moment in that there's a fair few in some places and none elsewhere. I reckon they'll be a lot more next week.

JB, indeed it was October half term, also known round here as 'tittie week' ... which means potato picking week...

Mopsa, what is a clafoutis?

LM, they are well protected!

Pig, expecting more next week. I am goign to pick loads and freeeze them to have in porridge in the winter..

DJK, this crumble worked out fine (also, drain some of the juice off and it's less likely to leak)

@themill, it was lovely after a brisk canter around other people's fields (shush!) tonight!

mutterings and meanderings said...

MB, that sounds v exciting that you could have buried treasure - or something more macabre ....

mountainear said...

Surely it's too early for blackberries? I've noticed the Moutain Ash are covered with orange berries already and the hawthorns, nearly.

Blackberries mean autumn and I'm still waiting for my summer.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Mmmmm... We had our first bramble crumble of the year last weekend using brambles picked from the bottom of our garden. That reminds me... I should get up there again with a bowl and leather gauntlets.

Omega Mum said...

I am a little fussed that you have seen so much in brambles whereas I have given them scarcely a first thought, let alone a second. Now, inspired by your vivid writing, I plan to go and stare at some with great intensity soon after dawn tomorrow. Wish me luck. PS I thought the juice was supposed to ooze through the crust. Whoops.

jenny said...

Oh, yum! Over here in the states, blackberry season is just pass (at least it is where I live in the mountains) and I have made all the jams I could. I picked one last batch last week and made crumble with it. Only a few stragglers left and the girls pick them off to gobble right off the bushes. I am always putting myself in the most precarious positions, trying to balance on one foot to reach, stretch, reaaaach those berries all the way in the back, with plenty of near-topples! If I had actually fell, I would have stayed there picking all the berries I could to make getting stuck worth it!!

Sir James Beiggelschwarz said...

Ah, blackberry picking - now that takes me right back to my childhood.

ziggi said...

"like blood through a bandage" - excellent! Just what it's like and has to be too, to be perfect. However I can't make crumbled and not just because I'm a useless cook (which I am) but I can't bear the feel of butter and flower on my fingers! Bleugh!

ziggi said...

or flour even!

Brom said...

I'm not a big sweet lover. Once though on a hol in Cornwall we picked a humoungous quantity of gorgeous berries. With the apples i the holiday cottage the other halves made crumble to die for. With thick custard of course.

Mopsa said...

Clafoutis is an incredibly yummy (French) batter pudding traditionally made with cherries, but blackberries are a good alternative - gorgeous hot, cold, warm, inside, outside and every which way. Thick cream on top for the gluttons. And after a walk this weekend there are indeed some brambles that are ripe for picking - so I will be making some this week! Shout if you want the recipe.

Gill said...

Cumbrian blackberries are called Blackites and they aren't quite ready yet. Ziggi- you can make excellent crumble in a food processor, so you don't have to touch the ingredients (or you can buy crumble mix in a supermarket and hide the bag it came in!!)

The Grocer said...

There may be a bit of a shortage due to the inclement weather this year and with the popularity of foraging going through the roof, get out early and stake your claim. I noted my first picker of the season 2-3 days ago and made a menatl note to get out there and get em next week.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Mountainear, quite a few here, I've been for the second lot tonight...

YP, it must be heaven having them at the bottom of the garden ...

OM, I have a thing for foraging - and I always liked that poem ...

Jenny, a girl after my own heart!

James, I suppose you don't have them in Russia, or do you?

Ziggi, put on some surgical gloves or get himself to do it for you. Of course, you could always take Gill's advice!

Brom, best with thick custard byt cream is good too...

Mopsa, yes please to the recipe

Gill, is that a Cumbrian name for them or are they a breed apart?

Go get em grocer!

Gill said...

no they are just the same breed as anywhere else- but wetter!

tim relf said...

Can't remember which anthology it's in - but have you read the Seamus Heaney peoem, Keeping Going? If not, try to find time to. It's beautiful.