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Bring on the blackberry season!
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

You will undoubtedly have your favourite bramble patch

I feel secretly smug as I announce to my colleagues that I'm off to pick blackberries in my lunch hour.

My proclamation is met with a mixture of bemusement, a few raised eyebrows, two pitying smiles and to my delight, one person asks if they can come too.

They don't of course, but it's nice to know that they're with me in spirit, as I'm picking thorns out of my forehead half an hour later.

Blackberry season is here and picking the fruit is fun and free.

Being able to help myself to food from the countryside, makes me feel like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall!

With my stout boots and a small brown dog by my side, I like to kid myself I'm embracing my country roots by living off the land.

I tend to ignore the fact I actually live next to a roundabout on the outskirts of a town.

But that is what's so great about blackberry season. These fruit aren't fussy. They'll grow anywhere from ancient hedgerows to railway embankments, making them freely available, wherever you live.

Picking blackberries
The age old tradition of blackberry picking is still alive, just!

I remember "blackberrying" as a child with the joy of finding, and immediately eating, the sweet, juicy fruit.

My Mother must have worked twice as hard as we did, as none of ours ever made it home, yet she still always had enough to produce mouth watering crumbles and syrupy jam for us all to enjoy.

Now grown up and living on the very edge of a vast expanse of Surrey heath land, I have once again taken to plundering the hedgerows for their free fare.

And if you are a fellow blackberry picker, and there seem to be a growing band of us who are, you will undoubtedly have your favourite bramble patch.

One however, that you are probably reluctant to share with others, for fear of a stampede of garden gloved, stick wielding, fruit fanatics.

But if you are willing to divulge the place in Surrey "where X marks the spot" for you and your family, email us at surrey@bbc.co.uk

Some of my favourites include the fields around Guildford Cathedral, Windlesham Arboretum, Lightwater Country Park, Frimley Lodge Park and the Basingstoke Canal, and the Thames Towpath.

But what to do with your precious fruit once picked? You don't have to stop at jam. Let's turn to our local chefs for inspiration.

Chef's Suggestions

Tony Tobin
Try Tony Tobin's Pan-fried plaice with blackberry vinaigrette

Reigate Dining Room chef Tony Tobin recommends pairing with fish in Pan-fried plaice with blackberry vinaigrette

While Kew Grill's Anthony Worrall -Thompson teams blackberries with broccoli in his Chargrilled duck breast with broccoli and blackberry sauce .

He also whisks up a mean Blackberry yoghurt burnt cream .

Gino D'Acampo, once chef at Cambio in Guildford has conjured up a Blackberry jelly meringue beehive which is worth attempting for its name alone!

And of course, there would be no point in picking the purple berries if you didn't bake just one Blackberry and Apple Crumble . This one is by the Bramley Apple Info Service.

Blackberry picking tips

Dog and bush
Do not pick blackberries from below this line!

Take a small to medium sized dog with you to use as a ruler. Stand him next to the bush and then make sure you DON'T pick fruit that he could reach with any part of his anatomy. I'm sure I don't need to explain why.

Wearing gardening gloves can make picking tricky towards the end of the season, as the berries get softer. To ensure you don't suffer from pricked fingers or purple stained hands, take someone else along with you and direct them to the ones you want picked. Suggest to them you are more qualified to hold the pot.

Take a hooked walking stick to reach the best berries, which will always be just out of reach. Use it to flatten nettle beds too.

And of course, you could always try the tip from the Cheap Vegetable Gardener , which is to cut open plastic milk carton and thread the handle through your belt, leaving your hands free.

No? I thought not.

Don't forget, if you can bear to share your favourite blackberrying spots with everyone, email us at surrey@bbc.co.uk and we'll add a selection here.



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