Blackberries have made an early appearance in ditches and hedgerows across Ireland, sparking discussion about the unusual timing. Biologist Éanna Ní Lamhna, renowned for her knowledge of Irish flora and fauna, has welcomed the early arrival of the fruit. She noted that blackberries are typically associated with the end of August and the beginning of September, coinciding with the start of the school year. However, this year they have appeared much earlier, which is unusual.
Ní Lamhna attributed the early appearance of blackberries to the favorable weather conditions experienced in June. The abundance of pink flowers during this time provided a significant source of pollen and nectar for bees, which in turn facilitated pollination and the formation of blackberries. The wet weather in July further contributed to the growth of the berries, allowing them to swell and ripen.
While blackberries are commonly enjoyed by people walking in fields and on roads, they are also a popular food source for birds, pine martens, badgers, and foxes. Ní Lamhna emphasized that blackberries are highly sought after by various creatures due to their delicious juice and nutritional value. The dispersal of blackberry seeds primarily occurs through natural means, with animals consuming the fruit and subsequently spreading the seeds through their droppings. Brambles, the plants that produce blackberries, are known for their ability to thrive and spread quickly.
Unlike foraging for other foods, picking blackberries is relatively straightforward and safe. Ní Lamhna highlighted that there is no risk of misidentification, as blackberries are easily recognizable. This makes blackberry picking a family-friendly activity that can be enjoyed by everyone. The harvested fruit can be used to make a variety of delicious treats, such as crumbles, jams, and even blackberry ice cream.
However, Ní Lamhna cautioned against picking blackberries along busy roadsides, as the fruit may be contaminated by fumes from passing vehicles. She advised that the best location to pick blackberries is in fields away from the road, where the fruit is perfectly safe to consume and enjoy.