While cycling around the lake last week, I was tempted by several ripening patches of blackberry bushes. Eventually I couldn’t resist – at a particular accessible bush, almost underneath the King’s Avenue Bridge, my lovely and very patient companion waited while I weighed up the likelihood that the berries had been sprayed.
They looked okay; they smelled okay; and I figured, in a public place like that, it would be pretty risky to spray such tempting berries without signage. So I scoffed a few, survived, and went back a few days later with shoebox in hand to forage for ingredients for my Tuesday experiment (and after reading this website, which assured me spraying needs to be signposted).
Picking blackberries reminded me of brambling in Scotland as a child, and foraging in the hedgerows in southern England. As a child, the picking part was more fun than the eating (the berries weren’t quite sweet enough), but this time I found myself rather more tempted. A tip: if you go blackberry picking (and they’re all over Canberra at the moment in its wild places, with more plenty to come in the coming weeks), be more sensible than I was and wear old clothes and sensible shoes. I headed straight from work and ended up a little scratched, pricked and stained (but oh, the satisfaction of feeding very close friends, my guests for dinner that evening, with fruit I’d collected that very evening!)
They are such beautiful, glossy creatures, with a juicy tartness that added interest to this creation as well as making it look pretty.
Blackberry, mint and fetta salad (serves four)
120g mixed leaves
Handful roughly chopped mint leaves
50g toasted slivered almonds, or other nuts
1 carrot, shaved into fine strips with a potato peeler
One mini fennel bulb, finely chopped then and marinated for a few minutes in lemon juice and olive oil
and a simple dressing.
This is one of those salads that it is worth taking a little time to construct. I build it in the following order: greens, carrot, crumbled fetta, mint, nuts, blackberries, fennel.
For a dressing, I dribbled over some olive oil mixed with pepper and verjuice, and that was just fine. Simple is best, I think.