Foraging for brambles and blackberries

Expert forager Fraser Christian reveals how to find free food and turn it into something special...

Foraging for brambles and blackberries

What you're looking for
The modest bramble could be thought 
of as a plant that has only one use or 
reward as wild food. In fact, this plant 
has had, and still offers, many uses to the forager right throughout the year, from 
the roots to the tips of the leaves. Not forgetting the blackberries, of course, traditional apple and blackberry crumble being one of my firm favourites!

What you can do with it
In days of old, the leaf of the bramble 
was commonly used to make a traditional British breakfast tea. It bears an uncanny resemblance in flavour to Earl Grey, and bramble-leaf tea offers the added benefit 
of having blood-cleansing properties.

The plant's trailing running shoots can 
be collected while the spikes are still soft, which makes if easy to scrape them off 
to reveal a moist, soft centre that can be eaten raw on its own or in salads.

Old bramble shoots are very strong 
and have traditionally been used to make cordage and basketry, including skeps (wicker baskets used as beehives).

Where you'll find it
Brambles grow virtually anywhere, but the best ones to use for food are those far away from the pollution of busy roads. Also, try 
to avoid areas that use heavy agricultural chemical fertilisers. The best fruit is generally found in a hedge with a south-facing side. The fruits normally ripen well from August through to late October, if you're lucky.

How to forage it
Care must be taken when negotiating the spiky branches of the bramble plant, but 
the rewards of being patient are worth their weight in gold. Carefully prise off individual fruits once they are fully dark and ripened. The fruits will easily bruise and bleed if they are squashed in a bag, so it's best to take 
a jar or some kind of container with you.

How to identify it
If you are not familiar with the bramble plant, it is easily identified by its long, 
trailing, spiky branches that seem to reach anywhere and everywhere.

Oval-shaped leaves first appear with a pink or reddish tinge to the edges, as with many plants' 
new leaves. In July, the flowers start to appear – they are white with a light blue tinge, and the size of a 20p piece. Fruits emerge like tiny green footballs that swell and change to red first, then a deep black when they are ripe and ready.

Wild Forage

Wild Forage organises wild food and foraging courses along the seashore and in the countryside. Courses are run for small groups anywhere in the UK, plus individual courses in most southern counties. You can learn how to correctly identify and cook wild foods, as well as discover their medicinal and cosmetic qualities. For more info, visit www.wildforage.co.uk.

Share this page with your friends...