This year I have my own private supply of blackberries. That is to say, I have brambles in the garden, with no human competition for them. Nor indeed their customary companion, nettles.
Having today picked my second big batch of the season, I am astonished by both the quality and quantity of what I can easily get from just a few bushes. Yes the weather has been great for them with a good mix of sunshine (the dominant theme this summer) and also a healthy amount of rain. But I’m sure having them to myself, with the neighbourhood cats probably even reducing competition from the birds, is the main reason they’re so great.
This gives me a happy problem of excess. Even freezing a lot of them (as I always do) I’ll have desserts to last me more than the year to next season, so I’m going to have to find other uses for them. Two that spring to mind are giving them away and repeating the delicious chutney I made a few years ago, last time we had a really good season and I wasn’t incapacitated by that tennis elbow.
It also thrusts on me the problem of managing rampant briars. I hadn’t realised before that they grow huge, vicious stems bearing none of the fruit. Until recently I had removed none of the brambles except when they came to block my path/steps, as I didn’t want to deprive myself of their fruit. This morning before picking the berries, I went out in boots and old, full-length trousers and chopped the unproductive branches ruthlessly. That left my hands as shredded as they always are in this season, but re-opened paths at the back of the house for next time the window-cleaner comes
I’m faintly wondering whether removing vast quantities of those vicious brambles might affect next year’s crop. But I’m reassured by having seen brambles cut back ruthlessly, yet grow back vigorously in ample time to yield another vast crop the following year.
Does the thickness of a bramble correlate with its age, so a thin (though still long) green stem is this year’s growth while the half-inch-diameter ones are several years old? If so I’ve cleared the brambles of ages from where the fruitless ones were thickest!