Today dawned bright and clear. Another day of perfect English summery-ness was promised. One that held the expectation of much foraging. Last night, I wrote a list of the various recipes I was hoping to try out while away. Obviously, this depends on what find, but I was very much looking forward to my first proper day of rummaging through the hedgerows.
We pootled up the Trent & Mersey in the direction of Fradley Junction which put me in mind of The Book Barge. I first stepped aboard this fabulous floating bookshop at Fradley back in April. Since then, the Captain and I have had the privledge of being on the receiving end of some amazing swaps. Sarah is touring the Waterways, attempting to live off books for six months so she swaps them for things she needs. Since I met her, she is quite rightly becoming famous, and has even featured in The Guardian. When indulging in some swapping, I was delighted to end up with Miles Irving’s The Forager Handbook so it was extremely fitting that it was to this I turned to confirm my foraging suspicions.
The locks at Fradley were very busy so I had plenty of time to jump ship with my basket and pick berries. I found a plethora of what I initally thought were blackberries. However, I soon began to wonder. I had read of another berry, very similar to the blackberry and wondered if I’d come across a crop of them. ‘The dewberry,’ writes Miles, ‘looks a lot like blackberry.’ So far so good then. ‘Dewberries have a blue waxy bloom, making them appear dusty, and fewer but larger segments than blackberries; ripe from July.’ It was the dusty bloom that first alerted me. The really do look like they need a good polish with a spot of pledge, unlike the gleaming blackberry which shines jewel-like by comparison.
In the photo above, the dewberry is the berry above while the blackberry is below. Hopefully the diffence is apparent. On picking, where the blackberry tends to be firm, the dewberry frequently bursts and my purple stained fingers were testament to this within minutes. They are not particularly attractive berries, having a tendency to look like the blackberry’s unattractive older sister, but their juiciness promises much.
According to Miles, they only ‘sometimes form large patches,’ and certainly the clump around Fradley Junction was one such. It took a while, but eventually I had enough to make some Dewberry Jelly, something I am certain is going to be delicious on freshly baked scones. Just a hunch.
Fradley Junction Dewberry Jelly
900g dewberries, using slightly under-ripe berries will ensure a good set
Juice of 1 lemon
Gently wash the fruit and drain well. Place in preserving pan with lemon juice and water. Simmer until the fruit is soft and juices run – about 40mins. Strain through a scalded jelly bag overnight. Measure the juice and allow 450g sugar to each 600mls of juice. Heat the juice gently, stiring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly until setting point acheived. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.