Foraging may not be everyone’s idea of a good time but if you haven’t tried it already, I recommend you give it a go. I find it’s both relaxing and quite compulsive once you start. And you get stuff! It still reminds me of my childhood: weekends always involved a walk of some description when I was younger, and while my over-riding “go-to” memory of picking blackberries is of trying not to be blown off the top of Culver Down on the Isle of Wight (I’m pretty sure wellies and raincoats were involved too), if I think more carefully I can also remember the heat and shade, the bright and dappled light of hot, sunny days in some of the more sheltered areas on the downs, playing in the remains of former chalkpits and practice trenches.
There are plenty of brambles to be found on the Isle of Wight. I remember arguing with my brothers over who got to sit on which Bambi character on the rug we ate our picnics on. A huge floor rug rather than an actual picnic rug that had been passed on to us, it needed carrying and rolling out like a piece of carpet. And more arguments over who got which plastic tankard-shaped mug with a cow’s head. I’m not sure if the heads were different colours or the straws, but I’m pretty sure it was even more important than which colour Penguin biscuit you got.
These days I try to get my own kids to come blackberrying with me, sometimes with more success than other times, although they never complain about the muffins, crumbles, jams and jellies we make from our foraged finds. I’m hoping that when they are older they will be able to look back and remember blackberry picking in some of the better weather, and even one day do the same thing with their kids. When I do manage to persuade them they always enjoy it. Despite sometimes trying their hardest not to.
These muffins are not overly sweet and make a great breakfast or mid-morning treat. I used spelt flour and a teaspoon of baking powder but you can use self raising flour, or plain flour with baking powder. You could also use light soft brown or white sugar instead of dark soft brown or muscovado sugar. And when they’ve all gone you’ve got the perfect excuse to go out blackberrying again.
Don’t forget you can freeze your blackberries if you don’t want to use them straight away. Just wash them carefully, make sure they are as dry as possible and spread them out in a single layer on a non-stick baking tray (or line your tray with baking paper). Put them into the freezer on the tray. Once they are frozen they can be transferred into a freezer bag and used when you need them.
100g butter, melted
150g muscavado or soft dark brown sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
225g SR flour (or spelt flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder)
250g blackberries, washed and dried
Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases and set the oven to 180°C.
Put the melted butter, sugar, eggs and mashed banana into a bowl and mix well, making sure that any lumps of sugar are broken up.
Sieve in the flour (with the teaspoon of baking powder if you are not using SR flour) and fold in gently. Don’t be concerned if the batter does not look particularly appealing!
Add the blackberries:
Stir in the blackberries, making sure they are evenly dispersed and fully mixed in.
Spoon or scoop the batter into the cupcake cases, making sure it is evenly distributed.
Bake for around 20-25 minutes: when they are ready they will be firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.
Allow to cool briefly in the tin.
Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight tin. They also freeze well.