There’s another type of jewel our ancestors hungered for, which has been sought for far longer than gemstones. Millenia before we settled the land, back when ‘wealth’ was not measured by possessions or the abstact and arbitrary concept we call money, people sought another kind of treasure. In many ways, this particular ‘gem’ was just as rare as the mineral ones we value so highly today.
The hedgerow’s seasonal bounty could be gathered only when it appeared on the bush, during a very short window of opportunity. The rich prizes were highly sought when in season and people would go into the forests to fill bags and baskets for the tribe to enjoy. Without refrigeration, though, they could only be eaten when they were available in the wild.
When you see fruits such as blackberries and elderberries ripening on their branches, it’s easy to understand why humans have come to consider dark, glittering gemstones so attractive. It’s in our nature to desire them, because evolution has programmed it into us. They represent wealth and security.
Even today many folk make use of this seasonal treasure. At the modest expense of a Sunday afternoon, the whole family can explore the river or countryside lanes and gather more blackberries than they can reasonably eat. Fortunately, unlike our ancestors, we have freezers. We also have some delicious recipes, developed over centuries, to preserve the fruit and keep us going until they are next in season.
Freezing soft fruit can take a bit of patience. Chucking them onto the shelf in a plastic bag or box will produce a solid black mess you have to chip at when you decide you want to use them. Here’s a tried and trusted method for successfully freezing hedgerow fruit.
- Wash the fruit thoroughly to get rid of dust and insects.
- Allow to drain, then dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper.
- Spread one layer over a baking tray, making sure it’s not over-crowded and the berries are not touching.
- Place flat on a freezer shelf until the fruit is frozen. Repeat if you have sufficient berries.
- Once frozen take out of the freezer and place the berries in a bag.
- Return to the freezer
Using this method, you will have a supply of berries that are not all stuck together, which you can dip into whenever you want to use them. You can select the exact number you need (not a messy lump), and return the remainder to the freezer for next time.
When foraging for berries, though, remember to leave some for our furred and feathered friends. They don’t have supermarkets.