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Adventures in Nature
The Lost Words August: Bramble
30th August 2020

This months Lost Word is ‘Bramble’. For me, it conjures images of hands covered in dark purple stains. Tupperware full of juicy blackberries. Family walks to find piles of spiky fortresses, tumbling over walls lining familiar country paths. Some years hot and hazy, a tribute to the long, warm days of summer. Some years losing the heat well before they should, meaning jackets were needed to go hunting for the round, purple, plump treasures.

“Bramble is on the march again. Rolling and arching along the hedges, into parks on the city edges” – Robert Macfarlane once again perfectly capturing their essence, bullies of abandoned spaces, no care as to where they grow or how they look, intent on ever-growing and protecting as many juicy blackberries as they possibly can.

Blackberry season is well and truly upon us.  Seamus Heaney’s well-known poem ‘Blackberry-Picking’ contains the line ‘You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet, Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it’ – perfectly summing up that first taste of blackberries each year. Whether finding them is intentional or you happen to stumble upon a thick bramble patch, each one tastes like summer memories – bare feet, picnics, warm days and sun-kissed shoulders.

Not actually a berry at all, each individual fruit is made up of 25 to 50 seeds called drupelets that combine together to create the familiar fruit we know and love! Full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – a serving of 10 are classed as 1 of your 5-a-day. They can protect against heart disease, improve brain power, have antibacterial and antiviral properties & reduce inflammation to name just a few of their superpowers!

Blackberries are delicious eaten both raw or cooked and it really depends on your taste as to how you should eat them, but I can’t resist a hot apple and blackberry crumble with piles of custard.  Crumbles came about during the World War ll when families had little ingredients to choose from. Apples were stewed and fat, sugar and flour were sprinkled over the top to make the crumble. Sweet treats were hard to come by and the trusty crumble meant that ingredients went further to feed more people.

You can try the recipe below after getting all family involved in picking on your next walk. Blackberries also freeze well so, you can pick as many as you can hold, freeze them and continue cooking with summer well into the winter.

By Lauren Emsley

Robert Macfarlane on Twitter: @RobGMacfarlane

Blackberry & Apple Crumble Recipe                                                     

Crumble topping:

120g plain flour

60g caster sugar

60g room temperature unsalted butter

Fruit Compote:

300g Braeburn apple

115g blackberries

30g unsalted butter

30g demerara sugar

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Vanilla ice cream, custard or cream to serve

Method

  1. Heat oven to 190°C (170°C fan/gas mark 5)
  2. Rub flour, caster sugar & 60g unsalted butter together in a mixing bowl using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture.
  3. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet & bake for 15 mins until a light golden brown
  4. Peel, core and cut 300g Braeburn apples into 2cm squares.
  5. Gently melt together 30g unsalted butter and demerara sugar in a saucepan. Cook for 3 minutes until the mixture turns to a light caramel.
  6. Stir in the apples and cook for 3 minutes. Add the blackberries and cinnamon then cook for 3 further minutes.
  7. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warm pan.
  8. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with vanilla ice cream, custard or fresh single cream.
The Lost Words July: Heather
28th July 2020

The purple moors are the backdrop to high summer.  I have always lived near moorland and when the dark heather blooms brightly it signals to me those brief weeks when the summer holidays are in full swing and the countryside is in playful mode.  It reminds me of picnics in the Pennines, days out at Dales agricultural shows and bilberry picking on the North York Moors with my grandparents, the inviting sea twinkling in the distance. (more…)

The Lost Words June: Fern
29th June 2020

Do you suffer from fern fever?  I have come close a few times.  This fever or craze for ferns began in the Victorian era when fern forays to find rare ferns and even fern stealing were very real! Pteridomania, as it was known, meant people were mad about ferns; collecting them and using their recognisable shape in their homes, artwork and even on their biscuits.  Have you ever noticed the fern pattern on a custard cream? Me neither!  We have the Victorians and their fern fever to thank for this legacy. (more…)

The Lost Words May: Bluebells
21st May 2020

Life has changed so quickly over the past few weeks, but one thing we have still been able to continue are our walks.   All our blog posts this year have been inspired by the work of Robert Macfarlane, specifically his book ‘The Lost Words’, and this month we’re focusing on the humble Bluebell. His line ‘..billows blue so deep, sea-deep’ evokes images of losing yourself to a deep blue ocean, and as you walk through the woods at this time of year, this is exactly how it feels.

We asked a few of our team if they’d like to write a short piece about bluebells so this month’s blog takes the form of four voices, all focusing on these woodland gems. (more…)

The Lost Words April: Lark
29th April 2020

We find ourselves in a very strange time, with the world locking down in the mist of a global pandemic. Robert Macfarlanes book The Lost Words’ is a perfect resource for reminding ourselves of the beauty in the world around us.  In our blog, we are focusing on one word a month and this April, we are featuring the beautiful Lark, a bird resident throughout the UK, with the most beautiful song, which uniquely can be heard whilst it flies high in the sky.  You can find out more about this bird, and hear its song on the RSPB website  (more…)