These two pictures capture the total harvest from my three blackcurrant and one redcurrant bushes. At times like this I wonder why I don't grub the damned things up and lay the area to lawn. No doubt the resident bird population would starve. The raspberry canes didn't perform wildly either, a combination of warm, dry spring and then prolonged rainfall. Not to worry, as I'm not wildly keen on blackcurrants; I think they have a rank, sweaty smell and are best used in a limited fashion in summer puddings. Now the redcurrants are something else. Made into jelly, these little angels are a blast of summer sunshine dolloped onto a bit of roast game in the autumn, or washed and sprung carefully off the vines between the tines of a fork into muffin batter for breakfast. Yum yum.
As for the raspberries, I took us off to a local pick your own farm, where we spent the morning wandering up and down the canes picking and eating the fattest, most delicious berries and chatting together about nothing in particular.
These farms used to be so popular when I was a child. Gradually the neighbourhood's children would be bundled into cars together and taken off in turn by families to spend the afternoon picking soft fruit in vast acres of English midlands farmland. The next day we were shooed outside to play as the matriarch spent the day preparing the fruit; bottling, saucing, jamming, jellying, pie-making. No hardship there, as we were bundled into cars by another family to pick their soft fruit needs, then the next day another family's, then anothers. Imagine our joy; different car, same friends. And always the same messing around once we got to the fruit farms, playing hide-and-seek between the canes and bushes with hordes of other children, similarly taken hostage. And always ice creams and sweets at the end of the day.
These days mothers are out at work, children spend their summers in play-schemes and soft fruit picking seems confined to picking up a miserable packet of supermarket raspberries or tasteless Israeli strawberries flown in at obscene environmental expense.Remember these cardboard trugs? Remember the feel of cool damp grass between your toes, and the greedy handfuls of berries picked and eaten warm from the cane? Sometimes the best things I do with my family are the simplest. Bill Granger's peach and raspberry slice recipe here.