Saturday, July 16, 2011

15 Jul - Successful Forage

Last evening I went for what I expected would be a one hour walk after supper.  I wanted to go check out some cherry trees I know about and also some nut trees to see if they were going to produce this year.  Well, the cherry trees had all their lower branches trimmed and there was no way to reach the cherries this year.  Too bad for me.  But all was not lost.  Along this lane were plenty of Blackberries; some with ripe fruit and some still just flowering.

Blackberries most often grow along borders or edges; edges of fields, vacant lots, and roads. I had brought along two Tupperware(C) type containers in case I found anything to forage.  I couldn't get at the cherries so I picked blackberries.  I worked my way down this lane and in about 30 minutes I had five cups of berries to take home.  I could have picked more, many more, except for a couple things.  First, both my containers were full.  Second, I never pick all the berries from one spot or even from one plant.  Other people and of course the wildlife have a right to some berries too.  Third, and maybe most important, I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt and the area was completely covered with a plant we call "Stingweed"

Stingweed, more properly called, "Stinging Nettle", is covered with millions of tiny nettles or spines that are as fragile as glass and are coated with some sort of extreme irritant. If you brush up against the plant it feels like thousands of splinters are in your skin and everyone of them burns like it had acid on it. I have walked into stingweed plenty of times while hiking and I'll take the pain as well as anyone. BUT, I will not intentionally subject myself to it for anything less than saving someone's life.  As careful as I was I still got burned a couple times and still had welts and redness on my arms and legs this morning when I woke up.  So I passed on a lot of berries.  Even so I came home with five cups.  

What to do, what to do? My first plan was just to eat them with some cereal but as I quickly filled my first container I decided to attempt baking something.  I am a fair cook but I have no claims as a baker; my wife on the other hand loves to bake but hates to cook so we are a complementary pair in that respect.  When I got home I looked up some recipes online looking for the simplest one with the fewest ingredients.  Blackberry cobbler was the winner.  Anyone that has been camping as a Boy Scout (and maybe as a Girl Scout?) has probably made peach cobbler in a Dutch Oven. It is pretty dang simple.  So today I gave it a shot in my temperamental, Dutch, gas oven.

My first cobbler
 Betty Crocker Award Winning Blackberry Cobbler
1. Mix two and a half cups blackberries and one cup of sugar and let sit for 20 plus minutes.
2. Mix 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup milk, and 1/2 cup melted butter in mixing bowl.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees f
4. Pour mixture #2 into an 8x8 inch, un-greased square pan
5. Spoon mixture #1 on top of this
6. Bake for 45-55 minutes

Most people eat their cobbler warm with ice cream or whipped cream but I hate warm desserts.  I let my cobbler cool then put it in the fridge to cool some more.  I had a 1/6th portion for dessert tonight and it was awesome.  This cobbler will last me six days so I'll have to freeze the other berries I have for later.  Since it was so easy and so good, I will go to some other areas I have scouted out in the past and pick and freeze a couple more quarts of berries.

There are two and a half cups of blackberries in my recipe so for a total nutrition count double and a half what this nutrition label shows (144g is one cup). Blackberries have a significant amount of Vitamins C & K as well as Copper and Manganese. One cup of Blackberries will also provide 31% of your dietary fiber for the day.  Blackberries are also a good source of antioxidants, pectin (which lowers cholesterol), and omega-3s.  It's not a miracle berry but it certainly is highly nutritious.

I enjoy picking raspberries but for me, picking blackberries is something of a chore.  The reason is how they are attached to the cane.  Raspberries sort of peel off of the stem and you just have the fruit in your hand.  Blackberries don't peel off the stem, the stem has to break at the fruit.  This makes it a harder, slower, and far messier process.  You cannot pick blackberries without getting purple, sticky fingers.  It does wash off easy enough though.

A nice evening walk and free food; gotta love it.

Everyone should have a Dutch Oven.  Whether camping or to have when the power goes out it is a good thing to have around. Get one with the flat lid if you expect to bake in it; you have to be able to put coals on top. You can cook with wood coals from a fire, even in your fireplace, or with charcoal on the ground or in a charcoal grill.


  1. Your cobbler looks delicious. Cobblers and crisps are a favorite, easy to make treat around here. My frugal tip for this dish is to bake it in the morning of a chilly day. After it's finished cooking, leave the oven door propped open for free heat and enjoy your warm cobbler or crisp with a glass of skim milk for breakfast. Warms you inside and out on a chilly morning.
    We have been enjoying the raspberries and blueberries we picked in PA.
    I made a blueberry buckle cake with 1/2 wheat flour and Splenda for my diabetic husband it was okay, not nearly as good as your wife's buckles :o)