This week, Graeme Pallister, chef patron of 63 Tay Street in Perth, sustains a few scratches in search of blackberries.
Blackberries, more affectionately known as brambles, are everywhere at this time of year – in gardens, wastelands or woodlands, you can’t miss them.
I think of them as one of nature’s great Scottish freebies. Packed with vitamin C and K with a sweet earthy flavour these are a must for any table or menu.
Annually around this time my chefs come with me on a very dangerous mission – well, dangerous for them with me navigating the way! Bramble picking is certainly one of the most worthwhile forages but it’s certainly not pain free. The best ones lurk deep amongst the thorns where even the gutsy birds don’t tread; only a keen cook, crazed for the flavour, will be victorious.
Once I have collected a great big bowl of these lovely, purply-black treasures (and we have run out of plasters), what do we do? Well, as with anything else, I want to give them the respect they deserve and the best way I know how to do this is to serve them through a lemon sponge with custard, a rice pudding or warmed gently with honey and served with a quality vanilla ice cream.
But it’s not just desserts that showcase these gems; I enjoy them with slightly more fatty meats and, like acidic apple sauce for pork, blackberries are brilliant with duck and other game birds – no need for a sauce when you have a pile of warmed berries as an accompaniment. If you have managed to forage a good amount it’s always best to either eat them or freeze them within 24 hours.
To freeze, you can either portion into bags, perhaps 200g per portion, and freeze as a clump, which is fine for jam making etc. However if you wish to keep them separate, simply spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and once frozen tip into a bag, they make a great addition to a chilled Prosecco!
My foraging tips: it’s always a good idea to pick ones above knee height as below is dog territory. As blackberries basically grow anywhere, always have a bag ready in case you spot a single bush or more often than not a jungle of brambles will greet you. Be aware of private land and busy road sides. Do not wash them until you are just about to eat them as they will spoil pretty quickly once soaked. Try and pick only firm berries as the soft aged ones will more and likely spoil the batch and finally, do not wear your favourite white T shirt when pulling the stem out – they do spray! Enjoy.