One of summer’s simple pleasure is foraging for wild blackberries and other edible items. Forage, the act of searching and collecting food in the wild, has recently made it into the foodie vernacular. In fact the renowned chef and founder of the Michelin-rated Noma, René Redzepi is a big advocate of teaching us how to forage seasonal ingredients from wild garlic to dandelion.
With the glorious week of sunshine, I am on a mission with my 2.5-year-old toddler for some summer foraging for wild blackberries in my local park. Since the lockdown, we have watched the bramble changed from pale green to berry pink and now a deep dark shade of purple. These wild blackberries have ripened earlier than previous years thanks to the mini heatwave in May. Hedgerows of bramble brushes are practically every corner, along towpaths and back against fences, growing tall and wild. With my Tupperware in hand, wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt to protect my skin from the thorny bushes, I foraging for wild blackberries.
Slow but surely, I accumulated about a kilogram of wild blackberries, just in enough to whip a nice dessert. There are so many great blackberry dessert recipes from the classic apple-blackberry crumble to blackberry tart. With my little harvest of wild blueberries, I whipped up a classic cheesecake with blackberry sauce. Recipe adapted from BBC Foods.
Tips for foraging blackberries
- Amazingly, blackberries grow anywhere – from urban parks or country woodland. If you look, you’re likely to find them along towpaths, railway tracks, and fences in your local park.
- Over the season, these little buds change from green to red to black. Pick off the shiny black ones which should be easy to pull off. If you have to yank on them, leave them for another time as they aren’t ripe yet.
- It’s best to avoid the low-hanging blackberries closer to the ground because dogs do have a tendency to do their business against bushy brambles.
- Wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants to avoid the prickly thorns on the bramble bush. It can hurt if you are not careful.
- There’s plenty of time to forage for blackberries as peak season is August and September. However, according to folklore, blackberries should not be picked after St. Michael’s Day on 29 September when the devil was cast out of heaven by St. Michael.
Classic Cheesecake with Blackberries
For the cheesecake base
- 250 g digestive biscuits
- 150 g butter melted
For the blackberry purée
- 250 g fresh blackberries
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the cheesecake filling
- 680 g full-fat cream cheese
- 1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 free-range eggs
- ½ lemon juice only
- 100 ml double cream
- 84 g plain flour 2/3 cup
- 300 g caster sugar 1.5 cup
- Fresh blackberries to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas½. Line a 24cm/9.5in spring-form cake tin with parchment paper.
- For the cheesecake base, place the digestive biscuits in a large ziplock bag. Using a roller pin, break the digestive biscuit until breadcrumb-like. In a large bowl, mix the digestive biscuits and melted butter. Then take a parchment paper and press the mixture using your fingers into the bottom of the lined cake tin. Make sure to even out the biscuit mixture. Place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set whilst you make the rest of the cake.
- For the blackberry purée, place the berries and sugar into a saucepan along with a splash of water and simmer over medium-low heat until the berries break down and become tender. Set aside to cool.
- For the cheesecake filling, gently beat into the cream cheese and vanilla extract until well combined. In a jug, whisk together the eggs, lemon juice and double cream.
- Add half of the egg mixture to the cream cheese and mix together until smooth and well combined. Add the flour and sugar to the cream cheese mixture, then mix in the remaining egg mixture until smooth.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared tin, then drizzle over the blackberry purée. Bake the cheesecake for 60 – 75 minutes, or until the cheesecake is set and lightly golden on top. Set aside to cool. Garnish with blackberries.