Blackberry picking is a favourite late-summer activity for lots of families. From roughly the end of July to mid-September, you can expect to see brambles bursting with berries that are perfect for baking!
Children who get hands-on in the kitchen are more likely to try more foods, as they know what’s going into their dinner, and are also more likely to enjoy eating more fruit and vegetables than those children who don’t learn to cook. It is therefore reasonable to assume that if kids get to forage the food they eat, they’ll be even more interested in eating the finished goods!
There are a few things to remember when you go foraging for berries. Wild berries are usually smaller than the commercially grown variety, but they can be much tastier and you can eat them completely fresh. You’re also likely to get a bit messy when you pick berries, as the really ripe ones will squash straight away and the juice can stain. Brambles are also usually surrounded by thorns, so make sure you wear long-sleeved tops and give kids gloves to wear.
The most important thing to remember is that these berries are wild, and therefore serve as a source of food for many species of wildlife. My number one rule is to never take more than I need, and to limit the amount I take from each part of the bramble. When you get home, make sure you wash the berries thoroughly before eating or cooking them.
Now you’ve been inspired to get out in nature and pick some delicious blackberries, you’ll need a great recipe to use them in. Blackberry crumble is an old classic, but these crumble bars are ideal for having on the go (perhaps on a picnic) or in the kids’ lunch boxes. They’re really simple to make, so be sure to get your children involved – they’ll love getting their hands in the crumble mixture and getting messy!
Ingredients (makes 12 bars)
For the crumble mixture
180g plain flour
120g dairy-free butter
100g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the filling
250g blackberries, washed
1tbsp lemon juice
20g granulated sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (gas mark 5). Grease a 7” by 11” tin (or similar size) and line with greaseproof paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar and baking powder.
3. Add the dairy-free butter and mix with a butter knife for 30-60 seconds. Then get your hands in the bowl and rub the mixture using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. You’ll have to wash your hands after this step!
4. Pour about two-thirds of the mixture into the tin, spread evenly and press down firmly. Bake for 10 minutes.
5. To make the filling, mix the lemon juice and cornflour in a small pot or cup to make a paste. Pour over the blackberries and sprinkle the sugar on top. Mix well.
6. Spoon the filling over the base and spread evenly.
7. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over the top, then bake for 20-30 minutes until the
crumble is golden.
8. Leave to cool in the tin, then carefully lift out using the greaseproof paper.
9. Cut into squares and enjoy! These are great cold on their own, or warm them up to enjoy with custard or ice cream. You can keep any leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for a few days – if they last that long!
So next time you go on a summer walk in the countryside, keep an eye out for these delicious berries and maybe pick a few for baking!