Blackberry Picking: A Poem and 15 Delicious Blackberry Recipes

It’s National Poetry Day! I’ve always loved poetry. My mum says I could repeat many poems from A.A. Milne’s ‘When We Were Very Young’ by heart before I was two years old. So I thought about which poem to share with you today and decided on one of my autumn favourites – ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney.

Blackberry Picking
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

Why not listen to Seamus Heaney reading this lovely poem himself? I think of it every autumn when I’m picking blackberries!

Of course, the only way to stop the blackberries rotting is to use them immediately or freeze them.But before you opt for the traditional blackberry and apple pie again, check out these delicious alternative blackberry recipes.

Sweet blackberry recipes

1. Frozen Blackberry Fool
This recipe is quick and easy to make, although you have to allow time for it to freeze. I like the effect of the blackberries swirling through the dessert, so I wouldn’t over-mix it. Serve it in tall sundae glasses with a blackberry and sprig of mint on top. Home-made shortbread would make this dessert even more tasty!

2. Blackberry Rose Ice Pops
Kids will love these at any time of the year and it’s easy to find ice pop kits online. It only uses store-cupboard ingredients and they’re simple to make. The rosewater adds a lovely fragrance but you could leave it out if your children aren’t keen on it.

3. Blackberry Grunt
This recipe is a different take on the traditional blackberry and apple pie. It’s a superb winter warmer, but remember it takes around 90 minutes to cook, so plan well ahead or cook and freeze it. The addition of ground ginger gives this dessert a little kick too!

4. Gingerbread & Lemon Curd Trifle with Blackberry Sauce
Forget soggy trifle with tasteless sauce. This gourmet version combines gorgeous flavours with a beautiful blackberry sauce, and it looks as good as it tastes. You could cut corners and use shop-bought ginger cake and lemon curd if you’re pushed for time. This recipe is good enough for entertaining!

5. Blackberry Summer Pudding
This traditional pudding is light and tart – everything a blackberry dessert should be! It’s easy to make and only needs a little time to assemble, but you’ll have to leave it in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) so plan well ahead. You could serve this with clotted cream as an alternative to double (heavy) cream.

Savoury blackberry recipes.

Blackberries work just as well in savoury recipes and their sharpness makes them a wonderful accompaniment to stronger tasting foods such as game or ripe cheese.

6. Blackberry Spinach Salad
This makes a tasty light lunch – the pairing of blackberries and salty feta cheese is a match made in heaven. Sprinkle a few walnuts in for extra crunch.

7. Grilled Fontina Blackberry Basil Smash Sandwiches
Another super lunch idea – rather like a deconstructed pizza! These sandwiches give a different twist on the more common brie and cranberry variety, combining fontina cheese with blackberries. Artisan bread works best with this – you could even make own!

8. Blackberry Ricotta Pizza
Nothing tastes as delicious as home-made pizza. This version with creamy ricotta and tangy blackberries, topped with basil, gives a truly innovative taste. Again, home-made pizza base works best, so perhaps make enough bread for this and the fontina sandwiches in one go. Either recipe will freeze well.

9. Blackberry Braised Cabbage with Venison
Red cabbage is a staple in our house at Christmas, but I’ve never thought of cooking it with blackberries. This would make a great alternative to a Sunday roast dinner, and you could swap the venison for another red meat such as steak for a change. The braised cabbage would probably freeze well too.

10. Blackberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken 
For a quick and delicious mid-week meal, this chicken dish definitely fits the bill. The sharpness of the balsamic combines beautifully with the blackberries to create a lovely glaze – you could make and freeze ahead of time for even more convenience. In fact, the whole meal could be cooked and frozen.

Blackberry drinks

Of course, blackberries give a creative burst of colour to any smoothie, but don’t limit their use to juices.

11. Elderberry & Blackberry Syrup
This combination of autumn berries makes a great alternative to more traditional blackcurrant cordials. You can make this syrup using wild berries or use frozen ones, and despite the measurements given, you could play with the actual amounts, or even use exclusively blackberries. This keeps well in the fridge and will soon be a firm favourite with the kids.

12. Sparkling Blackberry Ginger Ale Punch
Perfect for a party, or just relaxing with the family, this non-alcoholic punch is delicately coloured and has a sparkling fizz. The recipe combines blackberries and raspberries, but again, you could vary the precise make-up depending on what you have available.

13. Blackberry Bourbon Milkshake
This boozy milkshake is a real winner, combining milk, blackberries and a shot of bourbon. Definitely one for the adults!

14. Blackberry Gin & Tonic
An unusual take on a well-loved classic. The blackberries add a beautiful blush and there’s a hint of lime to give this chilled favourite a little edge.

15. Blackberry Liqueur
If you’ve ever made sloe gin, then why not try this blackberry liqueur? It’s made by covering blackberries with vodka, then leaving the whole mixture to infuse for several weeks. This liqueur has a stunning colour and would make a fabulous Christmas gift in a decorative bottle.

So there you have it – 15 alternative ways to enjoy blackberries. Which is your favourite?

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