I’m sure everyone must have a favourite fruit, one that in a single bite will conjure up your most precious childhood memories.
Mine is the blackberry.
I’m not put off by the thick angry thorns – the smell of them alone is worth the risk of any scuffs and grazes they’re likely to inflict. For a mouthful the perfumed flavour of a ripe blackberry I would endure the scrape of a thorn down my entire arm. But don’t dig it in too hard or I’ll demand a whole bowlful as payment.
My grandparents had a bramble patch in their back garden – my first experience of gardening was helping them with the harvest. It must have only been a couple of feet long and penned in between a brick wall and a garden path, but in a good year there would be enough for enough pies and crumbles to feed a huge family and plenty left over to make jam.
While my grandfather mowed the lawn I’d pluck the fruits, only choosing the ones that detached from the stalk with the gentlest of tugs. I didn’t mind the stained fingers and quickly enough my technique improved and I was able to reach for the ones at the back without scratching my arms on the thorns. By the time the lawn was mowed and rolled to perfection I’d have a bowl full of berries which I’d take inside to my gran where she’d make something of them with some apples from the tree that was still out of my reach.
Wild blackberries do taste like nothing else – the cultivated varieties don’t have as much flavour. They really don’t. But perhaps more importantly, they don’t taste like my childhood, and they don’t remind me of people who have passed out of my life too long ago.
And I don’t have a bramble patch but this year when I saw the berries in the hedgerows I picked one of the best and I grabbed some memories to look back at some rainy winter’s day.