In celebration of Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast: autumn, winter publishing this October, we asked some 4th Estate authors to write a few words about veg-minded living.
Lucy Wood, author of The Sing of the Shore:
‘Blackberries are my favourite autumn food. By the end of summer the hedges are starting to fill up and I watch them, waiting for when they’ll be ripe. It usually takes longer than I think. Finally, I take out an old ice-cream tub and go picking. If it’s sunny the berries will be warm. If it’s raining they’ll gleam like sweets. The hedges and lanes are a mixture of abundance and things dying back – the coppers of changing leaves, strings of red berries, the brittle stalks of cow parsley. Everything is quietening down. There’s a shift in pace. It always feels like the start of a new year.
When I’ve been picking blackberries I’ve had dragonflies land on my hand, deer walk quietly past and buzzards soar overhead. Blackbirds rustle in the dry leaves and there are cobwebs everywhere. I’m careful not to take any berries that have already been claimed by a spider or a shield bug guarding them carefully.
Everyone knows that the best blackberries are always just a bit too high, out of reach. The fattest ones are always the deepest in. Soon my fingers are stained purple, I’ve been stung by a nettle and there are seeds in my teeth. My sleeve is unravelling from where it’s been caught in the brambles. But even when the tub’s full there’s always one more that’s impossible to resist…
Blackberries taste different wherever you are. According to folklore you shouldn’t eat any after the 29th of September because the devil will have cursed them. Sometimes, right by the coast, they taste salty. I cook the ones that have escaped being eaten straight away – loaf cakes with apple and cinnamon, crumbles, compotes for waffles and cereal. They leave a dark swirl marbled through anything they’re mixed with. The rest go into the freezer – a memory of autumn in the depths of winter.’