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Charity asks for help as cold spring delays NI blackberry harvest

By Staff Reporter

Published 02/08/2016

Last year, Northern Ireland's first ripe blackberries were recorded on August 6 in Newtownards, Co Down, according to the Trust
Last year, Northern Ireland's first ripe blackberries were recorded on August 6 in Newtownards, Co Down, according to the Trust

The cold spring earlier this year has been blamed for a delay in the blackberry harvest.

The Woodland Trust urged people to report ripe blackberries to its Nature Calendar survey after revealing it had not had one sighting so far this year.

The charity said that by the end of July last year, ripe blackberries had been recorded at more than 300 locations across the UK - tying in with a long-term trend for autumn fruiting to take place earlier in the year.

But this year, only 31 UK sightings have been added to the online survey, and no ripe blackberries have been recorded in Northern Ireland.

It follows a chilly spring that delayed leafing and flowering in many species.

Last year, Northern Ireland's first ripe blackberries were recorded on August 6 in Newtownards, Co Down, according to the Trust.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, the charity's citizen science manager, said: "While there's no need to pack away the cooking equipment, people may have to wait a little longer for the harvest.

"Our records actually show a long-term trend for autumn fruiting to be occurring earlier and earlier, with wildlife having to adapt accordingly to find food later in the season."

To record the first ripe blackberries, the Trust is asking people to look at a group of blackberries and note when the first fruit of the cluster ripens.

Patrick Cregg, the organisation's Northern Ireland director, explained: "We need to get a clear picture of how the seasons unfold right across the UK, and we're appealing for local people to get recording.

"You certainly don't have to be an expert, and you can record as much, or as little, as you wish."

Blackberrying is among the few traditional foraging activities still widely enjoyed today. Picking the fruit of the bramble is a pastime that is deeply embedded in our history and folklore and goes back thousands of years.

The unmistakeable, prickly shrub grows in woods, hedges, heathland and wasteland almost everywhere.

The berries can be picked when they reach a deep purple-black from late July and throughout autumn.

Blackberries have a high vitamin C content and can be eaten raw or cooked.

It is said that on Old Michaelmas Day (October 10) the Devil puts his foot on blackberries.

This is the date in the Christian calendar which celebrates the Archangel Michael's defeat of Lucifer.

On his expulsion from heaven, Lucifer landed in a thorny blackberry bush, which he supposedly then cursed and spat on.

The tale goes that because of this, you should not pick blackberries after this date.

For more information about the project or to record your blackberry sightings visit www.naturescalendar.org.uk

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