The Curse of the Mexican Blackberries

Yes, I’m fully aware that the title of this post is slightly reminiscent of (i) a very bad 1950s B movie or (ii) Les Dawson’s legendary monologue on the plight of the Morecambe whelk, but bear with me. Some of this might actually be important.

One of the ladies with whom I work has lately been bringing in punnets of Mexican blackberries, which she claims are the sweetest she’d ever tasted. Showing me the few she had left from that morning, I can confirm that they looked suitably plump and juicy. I was more concerned that it never crossed her mind how wrong she was to be eating them.

This is not about food miles; although I grasp the concept, I’m not sure I could translate my understanding into an explanation that doesn’t involve waving my arms around a lot and resorting to drawing a diagram. This is about the sheer wrongness of eating blackberries in late spring. It’s just… not right.

Blackberries are, and always have been, an autumn fruit. Blackberries are reminiscent of weekend afternoons risking life and limb rummaging through hedgerows in an attempt to fill an oversized Tupperware container, and then resisting the urge to eat half of the crop before you get home. Blackberries live alongside apples in crumbles and pies before being smothered in custard, or mixed with meringue and cream for trifles and compotes. Blackberries are one of the last wild foods still regularly foraged by any and all comers. You have no idea of my delight in finding a blackberry bush growing wild in my front garden; nor of my frustration in finding that the blackbirds have got the pick of the crop before I’ve even got a bowl out of the cupboard.

While I’m quite sure that the Mexican blackberries are lovely to eat – and my colleague seemed to think they were – I dislike losing the ritual of gathering the blackberries, making the pies and crumbles and sharing them out with generous dollops of thick yellow custard (Birds is entirely acceptable, although I appreciate that other types of custard, including home-made, are freely available). I look forward to my autumn crop, even though I know it’s a sign that winter is coming. I can’t face eating blackberries at a time of year when the strawberries are starting to come out.

Perhaps this is a sure sign I’m getting old, but it’s a real slap in the face for anyone who likes to eat seasonally. How are children to know when fruits are in season when they are available all year round? Besides, bramble bush scratches used to be a badge of honour – it’s about time we brought them back.

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