Even if you don’t grow own your berries I am sure everyone has at some point pulled a ripe blackberry off a bush during those long summer days. Perhaps you took buckets and picked as you strolled, collecting summer berries for pies and crumbles. I remember Sunday walks as a child, Dad wearing his trusty denim shorts (long since sent to the bin) and Mum carrying the tubs. We would walk along the old railway lines that had been unused for years and collect the blackberries. My hands and tongue would be stained purple and my tummy would be full of too many berries sneakily eaten whilst the parents weren’t looking.
I guess now some would call this roadside bounty, foraging, but really the advent of the summer berries is still too romantic to associate with roadkill and hunter gathering in my opinion. Even now at my lofty age I love the task of collecting blackberries and have so many wild ones on my land that I don’t have to walk along the roads and footpaths to get a bucketful if I so choose. However this year my first berry collecting hit has been from another plant entirely. One that I have been looking at in my hedge for years and only this year did I decide I would take the plunge and pick and process its fruit.
The Berberis Darwinii Compacta
This is just one of many Berberis varieties and so it is a good idea if you think you have one to do your research before attempting to pick and eat any berries. My Berberis is a Darwinii Compacta and is nestled in my hedge, stands around 5ft tall and is an evergreen shrub. I love that some of my bushes still have foliage through the autumn and winter days and so always try to plant evergreen if I can. It is an especially good shrub for feeding wildlife such as birds and bees, so that’s another great reason to have one in your life. In April/May time the shrub has glorious yellow orange flowers and shiny leaves which are a rich green, then in the later summer months it has deep purple edible berries that look a little like a blackcurrant or a blueberry but they a smaller. These berries are not poisonous for humans to eat and have a lovely rich plumy flavour which is why they make a great jam or syrup for summer evenings with ice cold sparkling water.
The berries are small and probably not great to eat as you walk along as they have seeds inside them so might feel a little gritty on the tongue.
I decided I would make some jam with my first bowl and as the berries seemed so much like the other ones I had harvested from my garden (loganberries/blackcurrants) I used a recipe that was similar to my usual jam one, however this berry makes more of a jelly than a stiff jam. It is bursting with flavour and I actually like it better than my homemade blackcurrant jam.
The berries are a bit of a fiddle to pick, probably not for your littlies fingers as there are prickles. However within 30 mins I had more than enough for my needs.
900 g of berries
400 g sugar
rind and juice of one lemon
2 litres of water or 1 litre orange juice and 1 litre water.
- Wash the berries and remove any left over foliage
- Place the berries in a pan with the liquid (using either just water or a combination of orange juice and water as above). Cook until the berries are soft.
- Sieve your berries and liquid to remove the skins and seeds. I used a masher to push through as much of the juice as I could and then put the contents of the sieve into a muslin cloth – if you have one- if not use a thin tea towel like me and squeeze it is as hard as you can until no further liquid drips out. you will generate approx 1 to 2 litres of purple liquid.
- Heat the liquid in a pan, add the rind and lemon juice, then add the sugar to the pan.
- Let the liquid come to the boil and continue on this high heat for 25-30 mins. The jelly should then start to set.
- Turn off heat and let it settle for 5 mins and then spoon into warm sterilised jars. Place the lid on and the jelly will continue to firm further as it cools, however the mixture will still have some movement in the jar as it has a jelly like wobble.
I have made this recipe using just water and then using the mix of water and orange juice. I think the orange adds something extra but the result is still fabulous with just the water.
I got four jars of yummy loveliness from these little berries. If you have a yearning for something a little different then maybe you might like to give it a go. Just be careful and make sure you check you have the right plant first!!
so happy Jamming or Jellying and remember in this hot weather to …