Picking Blackberries Off the Vine

Blackberry Cluster

I picked blackberries the other day. Nothing unusual about that. Most every day I go to the local fruit and vegetable mart, ask, “Blackberries good today?” and decide whether to pick a small container or a large one.

 

This time, though, I really picked blackberries – a giant bowlful – off vines in my friend Anne’s yard. In a new white shirt, flip flops on my feet, blackberry juice still coating my just pedicured toenails when I got home.

With the market as my farm, I had no clue how labor intensive it is to harvest a bowl of blackberries. From the vine, they tease, “Look at me, I’m right here.” But right here I have learned may be flat on the ground, or might require you to stick your arm through brambly branches to reach those that are just right. “Don’t touch the reds,” Anne said. “Don’t even touch the blacks if they have any burgundy-colored spots. Just the totally black ones that come easily off the vine.” Even a perfectly black, plump specimen of a blackberry may still not be ready for picking if it resists your efforts.

Anne held the bowl, which seemed bottomless, but the reward was sweet. I took home a gallon of blackberries, “a year’s worth for your breakfast,” Anne said, knowing that coffee yogurt, chopped walnuts and blackberries are my go-to-breakfast. “Take out what you need every day, and microwave them for 83 seconds,” she instructed. Anne is nothing if not precise.

There won’t be a post-blackberry-season day that I won’t think back to the sun, the smell, the feel of picking blackberries from a friend’s yard instead of the market. And because it is one of the best blackberry anything’s I’ve ever eaten, here is the recipe for Anne’s blackberry cake.

Topping

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/4 cup chopped nuts (Anne use walnuts)

3 cups fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350°. In a 10”cast iron frying pan or a 9”x2” cake pan, melt butter or margarine over low heat. Stir in brown sugar until blended. Remove from heat, and sprinkle lemon zest over the brown sugar. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top, and arrange the blackberries in an even layer over the nuts. Set aside.

Cake

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg 

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter (room temp)

1/4 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg, milk, and butter, and beat for 2 minutes. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat for 2 more minutes, and pour over blackberries in the pan, spreading evenly. Bake 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool 5 minutes on a wire rack. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cover with a cake plate and invert. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

As someone who has an endless supply of blackberries, Anne says, We usually increase the ratio of blackberries to cake and it works fine, so feel free to use extra blackberries!

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