Ear to the Ground with Steve Blacksmith: Tangy jam, despite what seemed meagre pickings

Autumn berries

Autumn berries

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Raspberry is a native plant of woodland edges, and many of the small-fruited forms you will see while out on walks will be wild, though it is often a garden throw-out as well.

I have heard that the goodness is not only in the flesh of the fruit, but also the oil in the seed is very beneficial.

I try to bite the seeds to extract the oil without getting them stuck between my teeth.

Then of course you can drink raspberry leaf tea, a tradition for full-term pregnant ladies who want to hurry things up.

I made a useful discovery with raspberries.

A friend came round with her two little girls. They wanted to pick raspberries as they had done once before.

The season was nearly over but I gave them two dishes and let them go and see. They came back with a meagre looking picking. Some were white, some even a bit green. They wanted to make jam so I reluctantly gave them some sugar and with Mum they cleaned them and put the whole lot together in the pan.

They cooked down into delicious tangy jam much to my surprise!

I suppose we can make tasty things with green tomatoes, so why not other unripe fruit? I mentioned my favourite being stewed raspberries with custard, but there’s another fruit which I have enjoyed possibly even more.

My Welsh Grandma gave me dishes of loganberries, just a few at a time, because they are over twice as big as raspberries, stewed and sweetened, with custard.

They were cheek-pinchingly flavourful, but so memorable. Their loganberry canes I remember were way over my head, taller than raspberries and more like very robust blackberry bushes, trained on a frame. They were very prickly, but you can get a thornless variety.

I don’t know if the flavour has been sacrificed for smooth stems. The only thornless cultivated blackberries I know unfortunately lack the true wild blackberry flavour.

Finally, there is another raspberry relative called Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) which is supposedly great to eat.

I’ve only tried a few straight from the bushes. They tasted good. They tend to be planted by landscape designers as ground cover round modern buildings.

They are quite low, dense and attractive with shiny leaves and their stems are crowded with soft auburn thorns. The fruits are orangey-red when ripe.

l Steve Blacksmith is a Calderdale gardener, artist, naturalist and Chair of Halifax Scientific Society - www.halifaxscisoc.org