Hedgerows across the Borders and north Northumberland have been bursting with a bumper crop of brambles this year - and all for free!
The mild winter, lack of late frosts and warm spring produced perfect growing conditions for blackberries just waiting to be picked and made into crumbles, pies and jelly.
The weather has also meant that the not only will 2014 go down as one of the most abundant harvests on record it will also be remembered as one of the earliest too.
Many of us will remember going blackberry picking as youngsters, and for many the traditional autumn pastime continues, foraging for the fruit far more satisfying than buying them in the supermarket. Back in the day the October half term school holidays were often referred to as blackberry week.
Some people have been known to get carried away with picking and take home pounds and pounds of blackberries finding they still have some left in the freezer as they start to pick the new crop.
The National Trust has a list of some of the best places to find brambles but also add a reminder: “‘Don’t completely clear an area of food, leave some for the animals and give a chance for the plants to re-seed.’
For those not forunate enough to have a plethora of bramble bushes on their doorstep commercial growers expect this year’s crop to break records.
Sales have almost doubled in a year and it is expected that UK customers will work their way through 2000 tonnes of blackberries this year. And what’s more commercial growers can stretch the season out longer by growing early and late varieties, climate control technologies allowing production to continue into November.
Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits said: “British consumers are some of the luckiest in the world when it comes to blackberries as the UK is at the forefront of new technologies and breeding methods, resulting in exceptional quality fruit.
“Our growers have seen the market grow substantially in recent years, by more than 70 per cent in the last decade.”
So go on, get out there and get foraging.