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Sunday, 15 September 2013

My Love Hate Relationship with Brambles

Brambles have got to be the worst weed in the world. They grow ridiculously quickly, they take root wherever a stem comes into contact with the ground and they are viciously thorny. I sometimes wonder, if humans suddenly died out, how quickly the world would be overgrown with the stuff.

I constantly battle with brambles that sneak in amongst my soft fruit bushes. The lovely redcurrant doesn't have thorns and should be a delight to harvest. But no... I reach in to grab a handful of ripe currants only to snag my hand onto some hideous unseen bramble branch winding its way through the bush.  And try as I might, I can't obliterate the stuff from my plot. Even with thick leather gloves on, the thorns can get through, or the stems can swing round and whip me across the face as I try to pull them out. Year after year it grows back despite my efforts.

They are ugly plants too when they invade other shrubbery. Garden hedges interwoven with bramble branches quickly start to look like something more suited to surrounding Sleeping Beauty's castle. The bramble that grows through my neighbour's hedge that overhangs the road scratches my car every time I drive past and threaten to take my eye out when I cycle past. The brambles that grow along the redways grow so quickly and so menacingly that I have been know to carry secateurs especially to chop them off and make the redways safe again.

But just at the point when I'm ready to declare out and out war on this weed, September arrives and the bramble breaks out into fruit and all is forgiven. Suddenly it seems to remind us all that it does deserve a place on the planet after all and out we go with our plastic bags and pick. Blackberrying must be the only form of foraging that every kid in the country as been introduced to at some point. They are the only wild berry that everyone can safely identify. And no autumn would be complete without an apple and blackberry crumble.

This year has been a particularly abundant year for blackberries so there are plenty for everyone. No excuse, get out there and pick yourself some and take advantage of this free food. You may as well because it won't be long before all we are left with are the horrible, invasive, spiky weeds that we all hate.

Just remember to take care because the blackberry may produce lovely fruit but it doesn't give them up without a fight.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

2 lb (900 g) apples – peeled and sliced
1 oz (25g) soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 oz (85g) blackberries
2 tablespoons water
4 oz (110g) wholemeal flour
4 oz (110g) oats
4 oz (110g) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 oz (85g) butter

Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon, blackberries and water in a large pan and cook with the lid on for twenty minutes until fluffy – stir occasionally. In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C (gas 4). In a bowl, add the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and butter and use finger tips to rub into crumbs. Spoon the apple mix into a suitable ovenproof dish and layer the crumble mix on top. Level it off then bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve with custard.

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