It’s a bumper year for blackberries, writes thrifty living columnist Sheena Grant.

The long, hot summer of 2018 seems to have delivered a crop of these hedgerow fruits better than any I’ve seen.

They are plentiful, big and mouth-wateringly juicy.

I spent a couple of hours blackberry picking this week and have already made the first crumble of the season - with these fruits and apples from the garden for a super-low food miles dish. The rest have gone into the freezer but there are so many others out there, just waiting to be picked, I’ll probably do a second harvest in the next few days.

Blackberries are among the most easily recognised, accessible and nutritious foods to forage but it always amazes me just how few people take advantage of this free bounty - especially this year when the pickings are so good. Most of the fruit, it’s sad to say, will be left to rot on the bushes. You might notice them as you drive by, on your way to the supermarket, where food prices have almost certainly gone up again. If you like for a bargain, you won’t find anything to top hedgerow blackberries, which come complete with some precious, rejuvenating time in the great outdoors.

Reader John Snell is as mystified as I am about our attitude to food. He wrote in to tell me about his childhood, growing up as one of six children in a three-bed council house just after the Second World War.

“The one thing people got with council houses was a big garden and ours was no exception,” says John. “It was half an acre and was always put to good use. Potatoes, beetroot, lettuces, onions and many more vegetables were sown and harvested. We harvested spuds, put them in sacks and stored them taking care to leave out those that were damaged as they could in time send the rest rotten. Kilner jars were everywhere, containing beetroot, gooseberries and anything else that could be bottled. Numerous jars of blackcurrant, strawberry and gooseberry jam occupied shelves in the pantry and so on. Oh! I forgot the allotment, another source of food.”

John laments modern attitudes that mean often only ‘perfect’ looking veg is sold in supermarkets with the rest sometimes not even making it off the field. “If you have never grown a carrot you have no idea that carrots grow to varying shapes and sizes and can be brainwashed into thinking every carrot is five inches long and no more than an inch in diameter,” he says.

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