£4 for a small punnet. The price of blackberries in a Highgate fruit shop. It puts a market price on a modest sized blackberry of 10 pence. I feel a touch of the Victor Meldrews coming on!
It has been a miserable summer for blackberriers. A bumper crop needs sun and rain in harmony, not one and then the other. So the blackberrying picking season has been late, and deeply unsatisfactory.
Still, on Sunday, I was able to pick enough on the Heath - without my teenage kids, who seem to have lost their appetite for blackberrying tho not for crumbles - to sustain us through the autumn. Today's blackberry and apple crumble (I don't have a big repertoire, you understand) was a classic of its kind, and as you can see was devoured keenly by all the stay-at-home family members as well as by the sole picker among us.
There's not much of my youth, in the way of activities at least, that I can share with my kids as they are growing up. I can hardly expect them to share a passion for Huddersfield Town, especially since mine is long spent. The era of patchouli and Afghans is long over. But berrying has provided a bond between my chidlhood and theirs.
I was brought up on the edge of a mill village outside Leeds. Fields surrounded our house on three sides. Radishes were the main crop, I seem to remember. There were clumps of rhubarb. It was marginal land, and on the uncultivated stretches were a couple of sprawling blackberry bushes that hardly anyone else knew about.
Every summer, usually in the last week of the school holidays, I would pick blackberries. I can't remember what we did with them. Blackberry and apple pies, I suppose, some crumbles, and occasionally - and not always successfully - jam and jellies.
That was four decades ago. But one custom I have revived of late, aided by the proximity of Hampstead Heath, is going blackberrying. And my kids, tho' not keen on the thorns and nettles, urge me on summer weekends to take them on a berry picking expedition. No London summer would be complete without one.
We were berrying this afternoon, the first such outing of the year. And even though it's not even mid-August, there were plenty of ripe, juicy berries. Blackberrying, to borrow a Radio 4 phrase, is one of my 'inheritance tracks' to my children. I love it all the more for that.
And tonight, we'll all share a lovely, steaming hot, blackberry and apple crumble - the crumble prepared by my culinary minded son - and I'll quietly commune with my younger self.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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