Blackberry picking in decline

The joys of picking blackberries are so manifold, I find it hard to believe today's report in the Daily Mail that the practice is in decline.

Foraging for blackberries is self-evidently A Good Thing. But for those needing the reasons spelled out, the UK's experiencing an economic downturn, and we're talking here about free food. Tesco is currently charging £1.99 for 150g of blackberries. But they're there for the taking at a hedgerow near you.

Another point, not unrelated to the credit crunch, is that blackberry-picking is itself a pleasurable, healthy, yet zero-cost activity. Our nine-year-old loved our walk to South Norwood Lake on Saturday afternoon (considerably more than our nettle-gathering excursion earlier in the year … but that's another story). When he mentioned that he couldn't pick them without getting juice all over his fingers, he was told it was a perk of the job. The only downside as far as I can see was that I got blackberry stains all over my shorts.

What do we do with them? Make jam, maybe, or a simple compote. But best of all is Nigel Slater's delicious trifle recipe. Any other bright ideas will be received hungrily.

So why this alleged decline in blackberry-picking? True, the summer's been a wash-out – but blackberries are still in plentiful supply. The Daily Mail cites urban sprawl. Maybe people haven't time to go foraging. Or perhaps they just don't know where to look.

A few words of warning: blackberries often grow by roadsides, which you should avoid, as traffic fumes impair the fruit. The food blog Totally Cooked counsels against picking fruit from lower branches, which may have been peed on by dogs. And superstition holds that blackberries shouldn't be picked after the end of September, when the Devil will have urinated on them. Yuck, that sounds even worse than dog piss.

I hesitated to mention our local foraging spot in south-east London, since it's been wonderful to have the pick of the juiciest berries to ourselves. But really, there's enough for everyone. So go on, tell us: where's the best place you know of to pick blackberries?

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