Blackberries are perennial shrubs with arching canes, reaching heights of up to 3 meters. They boast thorny stems, dark green leaves with serrated edges, and clusters of small white or pale pink flowers that bloom in late spring. When fully ripe, the blackberries are shiny black, juicy, and offer a delicious sweet-tart flavour.
Leaves: Look for leaves divided into three or five serrated, oval leaflets with short stalks. The top side of the leaves is dark green, while the underside appears pale.
Flowers: These shrubs bear small, five-petalled flowers in white or pink, appearing in clusters from June to August.
Blackberries thrive in a variety of habitats, such as woodlands, hedgerows, forest edges, fields, and even urban spaces like parks and abandoned lots. They prefer well-drained soil and thrive in sunny to partially shaded locations.
The blackberry season typically runs from July to August in most areas, but it may extend into September and October depending on the climate and location.
When foraging for blackberries, as always it’s advisable to pick away from busy roads to avoid potential contamination with pollutants. Additionally, exercise a little caution near hedgerows adjacent to crop fields that might have been treated with insecticides and pesticides.
Blackberries are really versatile – they’re fantastic enjoyed fresh or incorporated into various culinary delights.
Once picked, store fresh blackberries in the refrigerator if you plan to use them within a few days. Alternatively, freezing the berries preserves them for later use.
Here are a few ideas on how to enjoy blackberries:
Blackberries are a super rich source of Vitamin C, boosting the immune system and offering numerous health benefits. They also have powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to protect against heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer.
Just a few of the health benefits of fresh blackberries include:
Blackberries have a storied history, dating back to the Greeks, who believed they had curing properties for mouth and throat diseases. Greek mythology tells the tale of Belleraphon, who suffered a tragic fate involving brambles after daring to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus.
According to folklore, when the devil was cast out heaven by St Michael, he landed on a bramble bush and cursed it. It was believed this caused blackberries to become unpalatable around 29 September – St Michael’s Day – after which it was believed they should not be picked.
According to English folklore, passing under an archway formed by a bramble branch can also cure hernias, ruptures, pimples, and boils!
When foraging for blackberries, wear gloves to protect your hands from thorns. Carry a shallow container box or tray to ensure you can collect the fruit without squashing it.
Fresh blackberries have a short shelf life, so consider freezing any excess to preserve their flavour and condition.
Remember that unripe blackberries are reddish in colour and should be avoided, as they can be very sour and cause stomach problems and mouth ulcers.
Only pick what you need and always leave at least half of the berries on the hedgerow for local wildlife to enjoy and ensure the sustainability of our ecosystem.
Despite their prickly nature, brambles play a vital role in supporting wildlife, providing various habitats and food sources for numerous creatures, including bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Blackberries in the UK have no poisonous lookalikes, but be cautious not to confuse them with other edible berries, such as wild raspberries, before they ripen.
Many of our Cookery Courses include a short foraging walk as part of the day, introducing you to a handful of commonly found wild ingredients.
Essential if you’re picking on private land. As with everything, respect is key and goes a long way.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Why rush? Nature isn’t going anywhere! Take time to ensure you safely identify your finds.
One step at a time.
No one becomes an expert overnight. Build up your identification skills and your confidence will grow.
Enjoy the process.
Foraging is not only about what you pick but the experience – Immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the little things. The fresh air, birds chirping, a light breeze or the feel of soil beneath your feet.
With an abundance of forage at your doorstep, why not start local?
The 10% rule.
Only take what you need (or 10% of what is available). This not only means that you leave plenty for other foragers, but also local wildlife. We want to enjoy our ecosystem not damage it.
Leave room for regrowth.
Never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.
Wash before consumption.
Always give your foraging finds a good wash before consuming, especially when picking on busy routes/path.