Freshly Pressed: No pain, no gain… free food has its price

Blackberry picking in our back yard

There are many, many reasons why I love living in the countryside but being able to forage for free food pretty much tops the list.

We'll be picking blackberries for weeks to come

You can see the blackberry bush in front of the boathouse on the bottom right of the picture

One of the most abundant sources of said free food in mid/late summer is blackberries. They grow everywhere, even along the motorway. You don’t really want to pick those though when you can find pollution-free bushes along every country lane, in the middle of fields and hanging over numerous garden fences.

England in summer is a berry lover’s paradise. 

Gargantuan blackberry bush

We’re really lucky as we live near the canal and behind our back garden, there’s a wide expanse of common land almost always full of grazing cows and horses. Right bang in the middle of this flood plain is one of the biggest wild blackberry bushes I’ve ever seen.

Did I say free already?

This year’s weird weather has meant that everything has flowered early so instead of going blackberry picking in mid to late August, the blackberry bush behind our house is already overladen with fruit.

1 hour of pain, 1.5 kilos of pleasure

An hour’s picking today has netted us over 1.5 kilograms of plump, super sweet blackberries. This is just our first picking too as we’ll be able to harvest another bumper crop in about 2 weeks’ time.

Just... need... to...stretch... a... little...more....OUCH!

However, all that juicy free-ness comes at a painful price… I’m covered in scratches and nicks and am itching all over as I unwittingly brushed both arms (and legs) across a massive stinging nettle as I reached for a clump of berries (the largest, juiciest ones are always an inch out of reach, damn it!). But, like I said, no pain, no gain…

Getting to that sweet, juicy blackberry is worth every scratch

Another 5 apples picked off the tree nearby (again, more free food, yippee!)  and we should be able to make at least 2-3 jars of our own blackberry jam.

Stinging nettles - pure, unadulterated EVIL

I’m not the jam maker in the house so check back in tomorrow when the big monster makes his bigfatnoodle debut,  click here for his blog and bramble jelly recipe.

More free food, rosehips this time (but they're not ripe yet)

99 Responses to “Freshly Pressed: No pain, no gain… free food has its price”
  1. Mum says:

    Well done blackberry pickers. I have been picking my THORNLESS blackberries in my garden. Gain without pain. Am eating my blackberry cheese from last year at the moment. Lots more blackberries to come. Mum

  2. Beren says:

    Miss the berry picking ! 🙂 x

  3. Al says:

    Yum. You’ll have to come up to Scotland and see us – we’re enjoying wild *raspberries* here and in a few weeks we get the wild bilberries.

    Enjoy the jam!

    Loving the blog, btw. x

  4. sue says:

    you are so right – england in the late summer is wonderful – miss it, but this was a lovely reminder thank you xxx

  5. Its pretty awesome that you live in an area like that! I live in Los Angeles and there is NO WAY I could ever do that.

    I like how the post was organized, awesome pictures!


  6. Jason says:

    That’s my kind of fun! I enjoy making blackberry jam, but it presents a problem as I don’t enjoy the seeds but I also don’t enjoy straining them out!

  7. Those bushes are BRUTAL!

    I live in Nevada (where nothing grows. Seriously. NOTHING.). But my ex lived in Oregon, where blackberry bushes were considered weeds because they were so omnipresent.

    Sometimes I wish I could live in a place like that!


  8. pezcita says:

    This mirrors my own experience just a few weeks ago when the northern Illinois blackberries came into season. What other food is so delicious that we’re willing to risk cuts and bites to get a free sample, or a free kilogram? My berries went into a small pie, which can be seen on my blog. Jam sounds good too; be sure to keep us posted on how it turns out!

  9. 300hikes says:

    Oh how I wish I were there right now. I would love a blackberry picked fresh off of the bush… Unfortunately they aren’t yet ripe where I live.

  10. Yes, a little pain here and there, but very much worth the effort. 🙂 Practice makes perfect, they say.

  11. Really enticing pics…These pictures reminded me of my childhood days when We used to pick up berries lying in the garden…Thanks alotttt!!!!!!!!!

  12. Alan Zhong says:

    Home grown fruits and vegetables are definitely worth the wait.

  13. Oh, I love blackberries!! Not too sweet… ,o) I make my own jam every year. I wish I had a bigger garden…. could also “forage” for my food!

  14. abichica says:

    woowww… berries galore.. home grown fruits are always the best, 🙂

  15. tripsfor2 says:

    sweet photos. love your writing style. makes me want to go pick something to eat!

  16. Laura Fulton says:

    Love this post! I share both the love of foraging and the scratches every fall when I pick blackberries along the roadsides of Vancouver Island. I am still waiting for our blackberries & apples to come ripe. Not even our plums are ready yet! In the meantime, I have been breaking the rules and picking from our local blueberry farm (not free, but worth the plump juicy berries).

    There are some great initiatives out there to try and help share knowledge about foods that can been freely found – check out #9 on the post “Growing Community II: 12 ways to get inspired” on

    • Thank you! My brother has just moved to Vancouver and I hope to visit him next year. I’ll have to tell him to start looking for the best spots for me to visit too and I will check out your recommendations too!

  17. bunnyisms says:

    We have wild blackberries around where I live. Very prickly but very sweet!!

  18. Naz Kovacs says:

    Ahhh this post brang back memories of back home in Australia, picking blackberries from the tree in my aunty’s back yard and from my parent’s back yard!

  19. Lakia Gordon says:

    Yummy, black berries! My cousins and I used to fight over these berries lol

  20. Amanda says:

    Oh my, we have so many blackberry bushes! Good thing I love blackberries! And so does our dog. She will spend hours outside methodically picking individual blackberries off the bushes. You will look over at here and she will find the most ripe berry out of all of them and somehow get her teeth around it. By the end of the day her whole face is covered. She is a 95 pound American Bulldog too!


  21. Meg says:

    bramble jelly on a homemade scone is one of the tastes of my childhood…great post!

  22. This looks like a great place to live. I agree with the free food coming at a price. My wife had a pretty bad reaction to fig juice when we picked figs. She wore gloves the next time. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  23. tmastgrave says:

    At the house where I lived as a kid we had tons of berries in the yard/woods around the house. We never lacked for fresh fruit, but between thorns and bee stings we paid the price to harvest them.

  24. ournote2self says:

    Mmm, I could go for a handful of black berries right now! They look delicious!

    • To everyone, thank you so, so much! I’m touched, and flattered, and a bit overwhelmed, and laughing, and a bit teary all at the same time from all the comments! We ended up with 7 jars of bramble jelly (3 of which my husband’s given away already – he’s lucky I wasn’t looking… I probably wouldn’t have been that generous, hehehe 🙂 I will do my best to visit all your blogs and thanks again, you’ve really encouraged me to keep writing!

  25. Obluraski says:

    This looks a fantastic place to live, remind me my childhood. I used to spend my summer @ my granma’s house on the countryside. I adored harvest grapes and fruit…these are the best memories.

  26. We have blackberries everywhere in this area. For a chef.
    These berries are such a treat!

  27. Great post! I too live in an area (The pacific Northwest, Washington state) where free food can be found everywhere. Berries, mushrooms, ferns, ect….

    It’s awesome!!!

  28. Louisa says:

    I live the photos, ahh that slanting late summer evening sun! I am missing the english countryside right now, but it is pretty good here in France too. Liking the look of this blog and will def. have a good look round when I have more time.

  29. Food the way nature intended! How luck you are! Thanks for sharing.

  30. Eva McCane says:

    fabulous shots. and the blackberries look fantastic. i have no patience for gardening, but props to you! thanks for sharing.

  31. Harold says:

    I grow raspberries, yummy! Congrats on being FP!

  32. Aww this totally brings me back to my childhood! I grew up in Oregon (US), where we had tons and tons of wild blackberry bushes. Every summer, my sisters and I would get all scratched up picking berries haha but it was worth it. I live in Los Angeles now, so I miss the wild blackberries. Thanks so much for reminding me of good memories! 🙂

  33. run4joy59 says:

    Ahh…this brings back memories of going blackberry picking with my grandmother…we lived on 100 acres that bordered the Hoosier National Forest, so we had a lot of land available to forage for free food…blackberries, wild strawberries, abandoned orchards, persimmons…kind of miss those days now that I’m living in the city.

  34. jenniesisler says:

    Oh this post on blackberries makes me want to whip up a cobbler. Might have to stop by the local farm stand on the way home…I grew up in the southern US (I live in New England now) and my grandmother made all kinds of cobblers, peach being my favorite. But you could use any fruit and blueberry and blackberry are so good too. They’re quite easy to make too, with just butter, sugar, flour and fruit for ingredients. Congratualtions on being Freshly Pressed. The photos are gorgeous!

  35. Kitten says:

    I could never do gardening, but congrats on being FPed!

  36. beyondanomie says:

    It’s always fun to forage for blackberries. Used to do it as a kid, and never stopped when I grew up. Mulberries too, although their season’s shorter, it seems. Unlike you, the problem I have isn’t stinging nettles, but that the juice stains _everything_ so you have to be really careful when eating them! 🙂

  37. Zephyr says:

    I have a lot of blackberry bushes around my house in Oregon where they’ve been naturalized. I love to just go out and pick them warm from the sun and let the purple juices run down my arm. Nothing better than free! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  38. I love wild blackberries. They grew all over Oregon and Northern California, where I used to live… I’d take my dog for a walk and pluck berries from the vines creeping along the sidewalks. Or go out to the horse’s fields and pluck them (very carefully!) off the vine while my neighbor’s mule tried to stick his nose in my bucket. 😀 I’ve picked blueberries too, which is a much less risky proposition… and in the American northwest there are tons of “you-pick” fruit farms where in the summer you can go and pick your own fresh fruit. I miss it all… here in Colorado it’s much more arid and it’s hard to find good produce at all, much less good stuff just growing out on the mountainside.

    • I’d love to have my own blueberry bushes as I love them! Thanks for your comments, I’d love to visit Colorado one day, it sounds like an entirely different kind of beautiful!

  39. Ivynettle says:

    I’m planning to go for blackberries on Saturday – bring my best friend, some lunch, some sturdy clohes, and off to a day in the woods – I’ll quite happily take the “battle scars” and stains if it means free berries!

  40. I love blackberries, check out my blackberry crumble on my blog! It was delicious. I pick so many of these each year, there are thousands no 100m from my house. Is amazing! They stain something awful though. Love the photos!

    • Thank you! My husband loves blackberry crumble! Well, he loves anything sweet to be honest 🙂 We’ll definitely make one when we go for berry picking round 2 so will definitely check out your recipe. Thanks very much!

  41. Patricia says:

    Blackberries… the edible kind, little beauties. Nothing like that grows here (Bangkok), but we do have free papaya and bananas in some places close by.

  42. Haha this reminds me so much of my own childhood. I live in New Zealand so most of the country is one big food plain as you put it. Blackberries were always the bees knees though. W used to get tons of the things from our farms hedges, river banks and bush patches. Now i’m hungry

  43. realfunfood says:

    I also live in England and yes, there are blackberries EVERYWHERE. Even in London!

  44. your story reminds me of picking my black raspberries a few weeks back. they too came on early (at least a couple of weeks) and yielded heavily after an early spell of warm and wet weather. one thing many years worth of picking those blood-thirsty canes has taught me, though, is the need to cover up. you can’t do much for your hands because you need all your dexterity to get the berries off without crushing them to a pulp, but denim work jeans are cheap and give your legs a lot of protection. similarly, a long-sleeved shirt/top might be a bit warm when working in the full sun, but at least you won’t end up looking like you stuck your arm into a canvas sack full of angry cats!
    you’re also lucky in where you live. I got started growing raspberries after growing up picking them along country roads. then the farmers got into the habit of making sure their fence rows were “clear”, and they used any and every sort of herbicide to accomplish this. now, finding wild raspberries (or any other wild fruit) is close to impossible.
    good luck with your future picking and congratulations on the honor of being designated “Freshly Pressed”.

  45. You might want to remember where you found those stinging nettles. They are great medicine for the body when taken internally!

  46. CRH says:

    Blackberries were a big part of my life growing up in the deep south of the US! Blackberry cobbler is my favorite. I had no idea they were so abundant in England, too!

  47. Alessandro Paiva says:

    Hum, I’d make some cocktails with those fruits! Nice post!

  48. Alessandro Paiva says:

    One more time, loved your post. I’m from Belo Horizonte, Brazil and do not live in the country side, but my father has a farm 1 hour from home, where we have blackberry, starfruit, grape, oranges, lemon, lime, mandarine lime, mango, guava, papaya, avocado, peach, pear, lychee, acerola, jabuticaba, pitanga etc etc. It is so good to spend a weekend having a healthy breakfast and a not so healthy cocktai party 🙂

  49. yagerbabies says:

    Wo, how great! And it is always fun to pick your own rather than walk into a big shop and pick it up off a table 😛 I take my girls Blueberry picking we do have to pay for them, but it’s fun picking our own and eating a few too 😉 So much cheaper though we pay the same price for a kilo as we would in the shops for a few hundred grams.
    Only thing growing wild around where we live is bush lemons…and they are SUPER sour…no wonder the bushes are always FULL!
    Great post. Loved it.

  50. Those berries look yummy.

  51. ava812 says:

    Yummy free food indeed! So this is what a rosehip looks like, in our part of the world, we don’t have rosehips. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and enjoy summer + the free food!

  52. kucingkeren says:

    its amazing, while in Indonesia, specially in Jakarta, the fruit just only find at supermarket. Thats great it!

  53. wulan^^ says:

    it brings me back to the memory when i was a kid visited my grandma’s house, i used to be a free-food picker… really miss that moment. thank you for sharing it…

  54. Chris says:

    Haha yeah living in the country is great, the place you’re living now looks a lot our farmhouse. If the nettles get too much try investing in some garden gloves (or get the kids to pick them) 😉

  55. lvaletutto says:

    I LOVE foraging for “free food”! It’s almost more rewarding than if it were growing in your own yard. I guess it must be an old hunter-gatherer thing but I always get really excited when I find a great blackberry bush or apple tree free for the picking! Happy picking!
    Laura V.

  56. woooww… an old fashioned to get some kind of food.
    🙂 just like when human hunt and gathering food from nature.
    but that’s cool, really cool.

    check my blog, there are some kind of unique food as your berry.

  57. Nicki says:

    Lucky sods! Here in South Africa all I get to pick is the trash on the pavement!
    Enjoy your berries and savour each juicy bite.

  58. shanegenziuk says:

    Poor Stinging Nettles. So painful to people, so pleasant as a companion to other plants!

  59. Thankyou for sharing this amazing post!!! It’s soo powerful!!! could you please visit our blog: and leave a comment thx!

  60. Im very pleased that I read this post; now I know that the strange thing that recently emerged in my garden is a blackberry, how lucky for me. I wonder how long it will take before it provides fruit.
    Very nice post.

  61. foodyrach says:

    This was a lovely post. It reminds me of when I would pick berries in the country with my family for hours. We had buckets-full, and my mom would always make a ton of pies. Thanks for bringing back memories. 🙂

  62. leadinglight says:

    I’ve found a reservoir about a 5km drive away from home. There’s a huge blackberry bramble path stretching from one end to the other! It’s my secret refuge – few people seem to come there to walk, only to see kangaroos in the evening.

  63. JT says:

    I am very jealous, I have blackberry bushes all over my yard and last year we had a bumper crop! This year for some reason just as the berries were ready to pick the birds literally wiped them out. I am puzzled as to why this is so as last year there was no problem at all with this?!

  64. mist008 says:

    Seriously thinking my move to England is long overdue …

  65. James says:

    woow .. amazing photos !! I like it..

  66. hermitsdoor says:

    Picked raspberries and blackberries this morning in our yard in the mountains of West Virginia (USA). Your post reminded me of our trip to Ireland two Falls ago. What looked to us to be black raspberries where growing in every hedgerow. No one seemed to be interested in them, so we collected a few every day to add to our meals. Enjoy.

  67. Lacie says:

    My husband and I also appreciate the hard-won efforts of a trip through the blackberry brambles. We did it a few weeks past (in Virginia, USA) and got enough to make a blackberry cobbler…but ended up spending a half hour with band-aid and anti-itch cream. Awesome pictures. Creative layout. Congrats on being “Fresh Pressed”

  68. gaycarboys says:

    A lady next door to us used to make Rosella jam. I always thought a Rosella was a bird, so it was bird jam! Of course it is a bird but also something that grows in the garden. The blackberries look rather like mulberries but I’ll wager they are just as delicious. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  69. Reminded me of growing up in the Caribbean. The summer meant roving around the village with my sisters and friends, at the river, and at the beach eating fresh fruits that we foraged (of course we didn’t call it foraging) and not going home until the sun went down.

  70. anelek says:

    What a lovely post!
    I wonder if there is a way to pick berries without the scratches:)


  71. We, too, have “free food” here in Western NC. The blackberry picking was superb this year on the mountain. But, as you said, it can be rather painful. All the blackberry jam is well worth the thorns and scratches, tho. 🙂

  72. trialsinfood says:

    free is always good.

  73. Joanne says:

    Oh my goodness, your house and backyard are SO picturesque! It looks like it was taken from a movie or something. Beautiful!!! I miss having fruit in the backyard. Growing up we had 3 orange trees, a lemon tree, apple tree, and apricot tree. I miss having all that fruit (though, funny story, one year a bunch of racoons came by and stole all the apricots about a week before they were ripe. My dad was laughing thinking about the crazy diarrhea they were probably having hahahahaa).

  74. realanonymousgirl2011 says:

    Nice! When I first read the title I thought you were gonna write that you got food poisoning. But I’m sure the scratches have been worth the bounty.

  75. Dalai Lina says:

    Sounds like you’ll have a surplus of jam 🙂 No blackberries in Missouri. I’ll trade you a jar of jam for a bushel of wheat. What do you say?

  76. Self picked berries always make the best jams and preserves. This would make wonderful hostess presents, just cap it off with some beautiful fabric and you’re done!

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