Saturday, 29 August 2015

Wild harvest

I love this time of year - as the evenings draw in, trees and hedgerows are beginning to be laden with fruit. I know it's still August (just about!), but it certainly feels very autumnal!

Last Sunday we started blackberrying, heading up to the drove by Salisbury racecourse, which forms part of the Wilton Estate. The humble bramble is actually a group of many closely-related species (called 'aggregates') that are nigh-on impossible to distinguish unless you're an expert botanist. It's funny how microclimate can play such a factor in ripening, and also the variety of blackberries present. In those sunnier spots, fruit was ripe for picking, but our haul was very low. The berries were also very tight and bristly, so not really suitable for eating straight away - I'm planning on making a big batch of blackberry jelly for Christmas presents (building on last year's blackberry chutney!).

Then after work on Thursday, travelling back from Dorchester, I pulled into Martin Down (of course!) for a quick foray over the road into Kitt's Grave. It's looking beautiful at the moment, with scrub clearance and grass cutting forming a rich mosaic of flower-rich glades and a variety of scrub heights. One glade in particular is wide enough to be mown with a tractor, creating a strangely-out-of-place striped lawn!

The hedgerows were laden - sloes, privet berries (not edible!), elder berries and of course blackberries. The latter were again not quite ripe, needing another few weeks, but in some sunny spots on the edge of glades there were some juicy ones. This variety has much bigger individual berries, so potentially better flavour - we shall see!

And the little carefully-cultivated bramble in my garden is now bearing a handful of fruit, and coupled with the rich bushes across the road on the way to the river, this year's blackberry jelly etc will have come from a wide variety of sources.

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