The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The Great Bramble Hunt


Before I get complaints that it looks like I dragged my daughter face down along a gravel path, I should explain that she’s covered in blackberry juice as today she, her brother and I went on the traditional Autumn Bramble Hunt.

In England, the juicy black berry is called a blackberry (quite obvious really), and the thorny bush it grows on is called a bramble. However, up here in Scotland, the fruit is known as the bramble and the thorny bushes are briars. But, it is the fruit that we went in search of.

It can sometimes take several seasons to find the ideal bramble patch. Obviously you want somewhere you will secure a good crop without having to trail for miles. You can’t pick them too near the road or other areas of pollution, for example, and of course you need to find somewhere that other people haven’t already raided.

Once you have located your spot, harvesting wild brambles is no mean feat in itself. Quite apart from the thorny defences of the briars themselves, they love to grow among spiky gorse bushes, and stinging nettles frequently congregate in the same area, catching out the unwary picker.

Too ripe and the berry explodes in your hand before it reaches the container; not ripe enough and it will taste too bitter; too low down and it may well be coated in the urine of passing dogs; and too far out of reach and you risk falling face first into the thorns. Having bypassed all these hazards, you still have to do a quick check for maggots.

By the time you have filled a one-litre, plastic, ice cream tub, you will be covered in wee scratches, splinters and stings. Is it worth it? Too right it is!

My wife’s bramble crumble is the greatest desert in the entire universe, and it only gets made once a year if we have hunted down and reaped the wild harvest ourselves. You can buy tasteless blackberries out of a tin in the supermarket and add large quantities of sugar to try and raise them beyond the description of bland, but they will never match the luscious flavour of the uncultivated bramble.

And if we manage to gather a second tub, then we are assured of Maggie’s to-die-for homemade bramble ice cream at Christmas.

Whatever I can amass beyond the two tubs can be put in the freezer to be dropped, a few at a time, into my morning smoothies.

I have been taking Rogan on the Bramble Hunt for several years, but this is the first time Meg has joined us. More berries ended up squished over her face and clothing that made it into the tub, but she was beaming with pride at being able to show her mother the squelchy mess in the bottom of her container. Fortunately Rogan and I between us managed to fill almost three tubs, so the rewards will be great this year.

6 comments

BStrong said...

Kim,
Sounds like a lot of fun was had that day. The way you describe the adventure I think a trip to the grocery store would have been easier (LOL). Actually, we too like to take our kids berry picking; strawberries, apples, and corn, however, we go to the local farm so I think that your expedition requires a little more thinking and preparation(and band aids for that matter). Meg looks like she’ll sleep well. Your wife’s bramble crumble sounds a little like my wife’s cranberry crunch. Some cranberries, apple, some oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flower and cinnamon backed at 350. There’s a little more preparation but I leave that up to my wife. It’s delicious and doesn’t last long in our house.

Family outings like these are remembered forever and passed on from generation to generation. So all the scratches, pricks, and stings are well worth it. I'm sure you agree.

I remember going cherry picking as a child with my friends. For some reason the day ended with a cherry fight and very little was ever brought home. I can tell you that there is no other feeling like having cherries in places where cherries don’t belong. You would have to take three showers just to feel a little human.

With all the plum chutney, crumble, and ice cream that you all are making, where are the kids going to sleep?
B

Tara Marie said...

Your daughter is stunning....what captivating eyes she has [love the berry juice] and the picture of her hands melted this Momma's heart.

We have raspberries here on our property and the beginning of July finds us with the same face make-up!

Kim Ayres said...

There is something quite primal about going out and picking your own food, as opposed to the weekly trip to the supermarket. It's something I always feel we should be doing more of.

Every autumn I swear I'm going to buy myself a book on how to identify wild mushrooms, but never seem to get round to it

Rob Hutten said...

Kim,
Just last week, my daughter Katie and I went for a blackberry-picking expedition around the mountainside at my mother's place. Your post resonated strongly with me...
-Rob

Naomi said...

I haven't gone blackberry picking for years, I used to love it as a kid. Your post brought back lots of memories.

Eating something that you know you've had a hand in actually gathering always makes it taste so much better.

I'm sure my brother could give you lots of hints on picking mushrooms, you probably wouldn't want to give them to your kids though ;-)

Kim Ayres said...

Rob - looks like a great place for harvesting wild food. Hope Katie enjoyed herself!

Naomi - time to get back out there with a pastic tub

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