Raid the hedgerows for nature’s free food!

As autumn arrives, so come the shorter days, colder weather, bitter wind, and the disappearing of leaves from the trees and hedges.

With these changes Mother Nature gives us a parting gift: autumn fruit. More specifically here in Ireland, apples and blackberries. We are lucky here in the Midlands that there are blackberry bushes aplenty. Commonly seen in hedgerows, blackberry bushes can be found in places like ditches along the roadside, along the canals, and in forests. These tasty berries are a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants.

Vitamin C is needed for a healthy immune system and is important as the weather gets colder. There is also fibre in blackberries and apples which is great for a healthy gut. Fibre in the fruit can help to lower cholesterol, steady the sugar levels in your blood, and keep you full for longer. Blackberry picking is easy to organise and is a brilliant activity for the whole family and groups of all ages.

It is a great way of getting out and about, letting kids (and adults! ) experience nature at work, getting them involved with real food, and of course, getting to bring home some tasty fruit at the end of it. Just a handful of blackberries are considered one of your five a day. When you have collected all your blackberries, why not put them to use making a delicious homemade apple and blackberry oat crumble?

Oat crumble is a healthy, tasty alternative to the traditional crumble. Oats are low in sugar and high in soluble fibre that, like  fruit, helps you stay full. As well as being tasty in crumble, blackberries go well with yoghurt, porridge, muesli, and can be used to make jam, coulis, and compote. You can even put them in a smoothie.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble recipe

Ingredients: Crumble: 150g plain flour, 150g jumbo oats, 100g light brown sugar, 100g butter, cut into pieces.

Filling: Four medium cooking apples, 225g blackberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, flavour to taste with cinnamon.

Method: Pre-heat oven to 180°C/ 350ºF/ Gas Mark four. Peel apples and cut into small chunks. Put the apples and about three dessertspoons of water in a saucepan and cook gently until they are soft. You can add cinnamon if you wish. Pour cooked apples into a pie dish. Mix uncooked blackberries through the apples. Place the flour, oat flakes, brown sugar and butter in a large bowl.

Using your fingertips, rub all the ingredients together until the mix resembles chunky breadcrumbs. Pour it over the fruit mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

For more information on any of the issues discussed above or for more information on diet and nutrition contact The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster, on (044 ) 9395518 or email [email protected]

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