A Seasonal Collection: Blackberrying

“O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live for ever in the wideness of that rich moment.”

From ‘How Green Was My Valley’ by Richard Llewellyn (1906 – 1893)

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The Blackberry Gatherers by Elizabeth Adela Forbes (1859 – 1912)

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Fringing the woods, the stone walls, and the lanes,
Old thickets everywhere have come alive,
Their new leaves reaching out in fans of five
From tangles overarched by this year’s canes.

They have their flowers too, it being June,
And here or there in brambled dark-and-light
Are small, five-petaled blooms of chalky white,
As random-clustered and as loosely strewn

As the far stars, of which we now are told
That ever faster do they bolt away,
And that a night may come in which, some say,
We shall have only blackness to behold.

I have no time for any change so great,
But I shall see the August weather spur
Berries to ripen where the flowers were—
Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait—

And there will come the moment to be quick
And save some from the birds, and I shall need
Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.

 Richard Wilbur (1921 – )

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From ‘The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’

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Coughton Court’s blackberry cheesecake

Ingredients

 300g freshly picked blackberries (washed and drained)
350ml whipping cream
350g full fat cream cheese
350g digestive biscuits
120g butter (softened)
130g caster sugar

Method

Place a 9 inch flan ring on a flat tray and line with greased greaseproof. Place the biscuits into a processor and mix till fine crumbs are achieved.Place the crumbed biscuit into a bowl and add the softened butter. With a wooden spoon mix thoroughly.Fill the base of the flan ring with the crumb mix pressing down firmly. Place in a refrigerator, for at least an hour, to firm up.Heat up a saucepan and add the blackberries and sugar, gently cook them together until the sugar is melted, keeping the fruit as whole as possible. Remove from heat and allow to cool.Place the cream cheese into a bowl and mix until smooth.Whisk the cream till it forms soft peaks.Carefully fold the cream into the cream cheese using a whisk.Gently fold in the blackberries to the cream and cheese mix (the aim is to get a marbled effect, so don’t over mix at this stage).Remove the biscuit base from the refrigerator and fill with the blackberry mix.Carefully level off the mix and return to the refrigerator for at least a further hour.When set remove from the refrigerator, carefully slip off the flan ring and gently remove the greaseproof from the sides of the cheesecake. Cut into portions using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Decorate with a generous sprig of fresh garden mint.

Courtesy of the National Trust

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Blackberries by Raphael Peale (1774 – 1825)

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“September 15th. – This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers, and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden; of tea under acacias instead of too shady beeches; of wood fires in the library in chilly evenings.”

From ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim (1866 – 1941)

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Blackberrying by Harold Harvey (1874 – 1941)

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Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.
Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.
The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.
Sylvia Plath (1962 – 1963)

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So, what would you make with them?

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29 thoughts on “A Seasonal Collection: Blackberrying

  1. The blackberry cheesecake sounds yummy! Unrelated blog question: In your opinion, what’s the must-see place to visit in Cornwall? Or the best spot to spend a week?

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    1. Oh my goodness, that is an almost impossible question and I am probably biased, but here goes. If you would prefer to stay in a town I’d say Penzance and St Ives, which have plenty to see and are a good base for exploring interesting areas. I’m thinking St Michael’s Mount, the Minack Theatre, Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden …. and, if you’re a Poldark fan, Ross’s mines at Botallack! Or if you’d rather stay in country I’d look for something mid county where you’re not too far from those things and a little nearer to Daphne Du Maurier’s home in Fowey, the Eden Project and the moors.

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      1. Well, St Ives and Newquay have lovely beaches, but they tend to be busy. Portreath is popular with surfers, but my pick would be Marazion, a couple of miles out of Penzance, which isn’t quite so manic and has views of St Michael’s Mount and the possibility of a walk over the causeway at low tide. Sennen is lovely too, but I’m not sure if it’s safe of you want to swim.

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  2. What a beautiful post, Jane – thank for sharing these lovely things with us. I love autumn and the quote from Elizabeth von Arnim is just perfect.

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  3. These words and images are so beautiful and such a gift to assemble them this way–thank you! I have blackberries sometimes from a local farm. As lovely as baking them into a tart would be, I just eat them straight off with some light cream!

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  4. Such a lovely collection, Jane! When I was a child we always had blackberry bushes in the back yard (threatening to take it over), and my mother made the best blackberry jam. I’ve never found a store jam that even comes close.

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  5. What a wonderful celebration of blackberries! I love the Richard Wilbur poem and the Raphael Peale in particular. I think Galway Kinnell has a good blackberrying poem, too. I only had a few blackberries this year and made blueberry/ blackberry muffins with them– delicious, but apple blackberry crumble sounds even better.

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  6. This was a lovely post and you could see what fun you had putting it together! I love autumn … although the change from Sunny Cornwall to Freezing, Rainy Birmingham has been a bit of a shock!

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