The humble blackberry. These beautiful fruits can evoke nostalgic daydreams of wandering down country lanes in the late Autumn sunshine, plucking warm, plump berries from hedgerows and making them into a delicious crumble (with custard, naturally).
The blackberry’s journey starts years before you eat it, with the harvesting of 20 or so cells from the meristem of a plant held in a laboratory somewhere in Holland. These cells are grown in a special jelly that’s encased in a glass test tube, where they start to form leaves.
These little plants grow in size and are eventually planted in a grow bag, nestled in a field where they grow for a year in the sun. As they grow, they fill the bag with roots and reach up to the sky with their leaves to harvest the sun’s rays. They don’t produce any fruit at this stage – just leaves, stems and roots.
After a year in the sun, the plants are allowed to shed their leaves and spend the winter outside. The next spring, the bags are split open and the compost containing the mass of roots is cut into slices. These slices are then put onto warm, coir sandwich (coconut fibre).
As they warm up, the roots wake and produce lots of little buds which grow into small blackberry plants, or ‘tips’ as we call them. These tips are hand-picked and planted into a small pot containing coir and some fertiliser to help them grow.
They grow into small plants and are then transplanted into fields where they quickly grow into a multi caned plant. At the end of the summer, they’re are put in a large very cold fridge for the next 4 months. This convinces the blackberry canes that it has been winter and ensures that they wake up and produce fruit the next year.
The next year they are taken out of the fridge and put in the fields or glasshouses where they will get down to the business of producing their delicious fruit. When the plant wakes up after its spell in the fridge, it grows the lateral shoots that will produce the flowers that become the berries that we all love to eat.
The bees love them too and work very hard to gather the nectar from each plant. Our bee keeper loves putting his hives in the glasshouses as they always come out laden with honey and happy, relaxed bees – like a little warm holiday – even in winter!
These berries gradually turn from red to black and fill with sugar until they are ready to be picked.
Each berry is gently picked by hand and placed in the punnets that you pick up in your local supermarket. Beautifully fresh and ready to be eaten with apple, under a thick blanket of crumble, smothered with custard, cream or ice cream (or all three if it’s a special celebration!)