The hot weather we have enjoyed this summer is now literally bearing fruit! The hedgerows are full of wild berries ripened to perfection.
The blackberries are wonderful at the moment – juicy, sweet berries – it really has been a bumper harvest and free for the picking! What’s not to like? Well, OK … a few scratches but it’ll be worth it!
Blackberries (and elderberry and sloes) are bursting with vitamins such as antioxidants A, E and C (they contain more Vit C than blueberries) and minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium. They are also an excellent source of anthocyanins, powerful plant antioxidants that give blackberries, and other dark fruits, their deep purple colour.
There has been lots of research into these plant compounds and they have been shown to support immunity, have antiviral and antibacterial properties and may exert an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Berries are delicious on their own or as part of a berry mix. They freeze very well once picked – I spread them out in one layer on a tray and then freeze before decanting into a box. That way they stay separate and you can take out as many as you need. They are lovely in smoothies, added to stewed apples in a compote or crumble, and make a delicious addition to a gravy or sauce for duck or goose. Both ginger and star anise are spices that enhance the flavour of blackberries and bring an added piquancy.
While you are out and about see how the elderberries are ripening. These wonderful fruits are packed full of nutrients and are traditionally used for supporting immunity – particularly the respiratory tract. They are often sold as a syrup or cordial and there are lots of recipes online if you want to try making your own.
It is recommended that these elderberries should not be eaten raw as they may cause nausea and stomach upsets.
Sloe berries are the fruit of the blackthorn. They are the same family as plums but are very tart when eaten raw. However, they make wonderful syrups and jellies and of course a delicious addition to gin or vodka if you fancy making your own tipple!