The taste of Summer, bursting with flavour and anti-oxidant effects. Tayberries are a Raspberry / Blackberry cross that combines the best of both. Big, succulent fruits that crop early. Blackberries were eaten even in Stone Age times, pips from the fruit were found in the stomach remains of a Neolithic man preserved in clay in Essex.
Blackberry picking time was once a most important country activity. Country people would pick in droves, gathering the fruit for jams, tarts, crumble, jellies, teas, wine, ale, syrup, vinegar, cordial, summer puddings and the rest ! Tayberry, Raspberry or Blackberry jelly is a great way to preserve this fruit for when it is needed in the winter – it makes a great base for a hot toddy.
Legend has it that wild Blackberries should not be eaten after October 10th because the Devil spits on every bush at this time and they certainly lose flavour and become ‘fly blown’ as autumn progresses. Roger Phillips in ‘Wild Food’ (my favourite food book) notes that this choice of date falls around Michaelmas Day (allowing for an 11 day calendar shift in 1752). This feast day celebrates “the primeval war in which St. Michael the Archangel hurled Lucifer out of Heaven and down to earth” and provides more evidence of how Christianity assimilated much of folklore for its own ends.
These berries are rich in vitamin C and provide a recognised boost to the immune system. The fresh berries are rich in bioflavonoids, fibre and folate. There are also traces of salicylate – a natural aspirin like compound that can trigger allergic reactions in some people. The leaves and roots are also a valuable herb that can help to control diarrhoea. The chewing of blackberry leaves for bleeding gums goes back at least 2000 years.
For this recipe I used about 2 pounds of fresh Tayberries with a quarter pint of water (and a couple of Strawberries thrown in). Let it simmer for a few minutes, add 2 pounds of sugar and stir until it dissolves, then add the pectin and a knob of butter, get it to a rolling boil for a few minutes and pour into sterilised jars, and seal. It won’t last until winter as my son keeps eating it, and so do I. Yum !