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Caterer loves… blackberries

31 August 2006

It may involve scratching your arm to shreds, but nothing compares to the autumn tradition of harvesting blackberries from the bottom of the garden.

Brambling, the national pastime of blackberry picking, swings into full effect in mid-to-late August. While the USA exports large quantities of blackberries all year round, they tend to be oversized, glossy and flavourless, unlike the juicy, flavoursome fruits available free in Britain's country lanes and paddocks.

For the final few summer evenings, mix them with whipped cream and caster sugar for a blackberry mess. For those cold autumn nights, bake them into a crumble with some cooking apples. Or, to enjoy the taste all year round, boil them up with some sugar to create blackberry jam. For a more unconventional treat, Brighton vegetarian restaurant Terre à Terre recommends steeping them in cider vinegar and adding them to a light oil with bitter leaves, cheesy croûtons, tart apple and hot toasted walnuts.

If a blackberry dessert is on the menu, Laithwaites wine merchants recommends the Australian Buronga Growers Shiraz as the perfect fruity accompaniment. And Lurgashall blackberry wine is available from the Sussex Wine Company. At 11% abv, it is not dissimilar to a good Beaujolais, according to the wine retailer, and is best matched with British beef or a strong farmhouse Cheddar.

If beer is your tipple, then head along to the Tamworth Beer Festival in early September, where Church End brewery is hoping to repeat its successful 2005 blackberry beer. The real ale, originally brewed for the Leicester Beer Festival, is made by adding blended blackberries to a base ale and letting it all ferment.

But bramblers beware: however big your soft spot is for the versatile autumn fruit, superstition says that anyone picking blackberries past
29 September will experience nothing but bad luck until the next brambling season.

By Tom Vaughan

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