Sunday, February 10, 2013

The harvest we almost didn't have

It takes a while for Summer to really hit in these parts. It's not 'til Christmas time that we find ourselves properly immersed in the heat of the Summertime. And it's about this time that we start to see blackberries everywhere, everywhere, everywhere growing fat on their brambles. Last Summer, our first summer here, was also our first excursion into the joys and pain of blackberry picking and preserving.  This Summer we spied the darkening and fattening berries with excited anticipation of true and immense deliciousness. We'd decided to embrace the handy tips in our new bible, The Weed Foragers Handbook to "... stomp down on the highest canes in your path using them to flatten to the ground all the canes beneath them. Do this with each step into the bushes' centre and you'll quickly triple your collecting area..." Ok so we were ready. Then the heat really hit. 45 degree days with hot North Westerly winds do not a happy blackberry make. Everywhere we looked we saw fried dried blackberries and yes, it was a little despondent making. 

Then one day Annie was wandering around our land, down low in the gully and spied a perfect vision across the fence. On the south facing slope hung a wall of blackberries, a veritable avalanche of berries cascading over to a sea of wild growing watercress. Wow. Thank you lush cool micro-climate for saving our blackberry 'harvest'. It is quite amazing how a little less sun and a bit more moisture can result in such a profound change in eco-system, such that the edibles are growing in wild abundance whereas literally a few metres away, it's all dried up and brown. 

wall of blackberries

sea of watercress

We didn't need our handy blackberry picking tip this year as these blackberries literally fall into our hands. We've been picking bowlfuls and jamming up a storm.

Oh the deep purple delight

I used the same recipe as last Summer but have learnt my lesson and now cook it for no longer than an hour. The result is less thick, but better. And yep, the kids love it...

Olive and jam
Huon, Oscar and jam

We've also invented a rather delicious dessert gozleme of blackberries, honey, mint and fetta. It is superb. 

And we've been eating a lot of blackberry breakfast pikelets with locally foraged peaches, Brett's passionfruit, yoghurt and maple syrup or honey. These are also superb and so easy to make. 

This seeming over-indulgence is what I love most about eating seasonally. For us now, it's all about tomatoes, zucchini, basil, corn, beans, greens, blackberries, blueberries and peaches. We're eating so much of it that I won't be sorry when this Summer bounty ends. In fact I will be relieved to move onto the pomme fruit, root veg and brassicas of the cooler months. Then just when I think I can't bear to eat another cabbage or cauliflower we will be in asparagus, pea, broad bean, artichoke and leafy green land and back on the brink of the Summer bounty. And by this time I know I will be seriously yearning for some tomato and basil action. For now we are really enjoying what we have, it feels like true abundance. 

Blackberry breakfast pikelets
(serves 4)
200g flour (I use whatever we have so sometimes it's all white, sometimes a halfy mix of some kind of wholemeal and white)
2 tspns of baking powder
1/2 cup rapadura sugar
2-3 eggs, beaten
400ml milk or buttermilk or a yoghurt milk combo
butter for cooking
Blackberries (also works super-well with other berries, especially foraged ones like native raspberries. They are just tastier when they're free)

Stir dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well. Pour eggs into the well and then slowly add milk. Depending on the flour you use you might need less or more milk. You want a smooth, not too runny batter.

Heat a heavy based frypan and add butter. When the butter starts to bubble from the heat, drop in spoonfuls, when bubbles start to appear on uncooked side, drop blackberries onto them and flip over. Keep warm until all are cooked. 


  1. It's great the blackberries aren't sprayed. Everywhere I try and forage for them there are signs warning against chemical poisoning. Not so in Ireland; everyone there has stories of foraging so mum could make a year's worth of jam. The blackberries are everywhere, it's lovely.

  2. Thanks Kim, yep we are lucky that we have easy access to so many unsprayed blackberries. They are quite divine and luxuriant. We are a little conflicted as we know they are a weed and do they take over terribly. However they are so productive and have so much to offer in the food stakes! And well, given they're here already we figure we may as well make the most of them! Good luck on your foraging adventures!