Once blackberries hit the hedgerows, make the most of them with our guide to choosing and storing these black beauties, plus a wealth of blackberry recipes.
Few things sum up British summertime better than a scramble through a blackberry bush clutching an empty margarine tub or Tupperware box. And provided you're not trespassing on private property, blackberry picking is a great way of sourcing a cheap summer pud.
Crumbles and pies aside, what can you do with this bountiful berry? Here are our top tips for handling all that free fruit...
Like many things in life, the most successful blackberries will be ones that stand out from the crowd. They should be shiny and firm when you pick them, though fruits do seem to vary in flavour from place to place. Seasoned blackberry hunters often have favourite bushes whose harvest they prefer to any neighbouring bush. You can try before you start picking, so shop around to find what suits you, avoiding bushes by busy roads and any fruit that's low enough to be ‘watered’ by passing dogs.
When to pick
Blackberries are normally at their best at the end of August to September. Legend has it any picked after the end of this month are best avoided, as the devil is said to have peed on them. We're not sure this is true, but by October the damp weather will have certainly soiled many crops.
Where to pick
Grown in abundance in all manner of hedgerows across the country, blackberries aren't restricted to rural areas – they're regularly spotted along canal paths and across wasteland in towns and cities alike.
How to collect
Although it's hard to resist raiding each hedgerow, try not to stack loads of berries on top of each other or they'll bruise and squash before you get them home. Use a couple of containers if you want to pick lots of berries. It's always good to leave plenty for other pickers, too.
How to store
Try to keep blackberries dry when storing and they should last for two to three days. If you're refrigerating them, let them come to room temperature before eating, as they'll taste much juicier that way. Don't worry if you've picked more than you can handle – blackberries are easily frozen and can be baked straight from the freezer with no need to defrost. Freeze them on a tray in a single layer so they don't all squish together, or purée them first then freeze the liquid in a bag or ice cube tray.
What to cook
Blackberry sauce tastes great with venison, or serve the berries whole with pigeon and other game birds. These purple beauties also make fantastic salads. Try our blackberry, beetroot & goat's cheese salad for a colourful starter with a burst of sweetness, or our quick lunch of ricotta, blackerry & pine nut tartines. The smooth, creamy cheese goes perfectly with the sweet-sharp berries.
Add blackberry coulis to ice cream, pancakes and jelly, or layer with meringue for a show-stopping pud. To make a fruity liqueur, mash blackberries lightly with sugar, push through a sieve, pour into a clean bottle then top up with brandy, vodka or gin.
Want to beat the heat? Try our blackberry & cider ice lollies for a grown-up summer treat. From a simple loaf cake to these delicate blackberry doughnuts, this versatile fruit works with all our favourite desserts. And if you're in need of a stunning showstopper, you can't beat our slow cooker muscovado cheesecake with blackberries & hazelnuts.
Enjoyed these recipes? Check out our other fruity guide...
What's your favourite blackberry recipe? Leave a comment below...