The berry drug – by Helen May

Helen-May-letterbox-150x150Although I never liked sport at school, I have always been pretty active. As a teenager, I would walk into the town centre to save my bus fare. As a student, I would cycle to the university to save … for a few more drinks. As I got older, I started walking for the fun of it and pick up my bike for a ride every so often. I also rock climb and am a regular visitor to the gym.

Having diabetes, I have become more aware of the need to be fit and, now I work from home, I don’t have my daily walk to and from the office so I have to make an extra special effort to get out and stretch my legs. Unfortunately, each type of exercise: gym, climbing, cycling, walking, … affect my blood glucose levels in a different way: I have to increase my basal when I climb and decrease it when I visit the gym. On a long walk or cycle, I have to keep stopping to take a reading.

And, to prove the point, on the last bank holiday Monday, I went mountain biking but didn’t have as much fun as last time because my diabetes decided to misbehave and, halfway round, I had a hypo which was difficult to clear . As a result, on the Tuesday, I was feeling pretty groggy but, after a day of working (at less than 100% productivity), I needed to get out of the house.

The shops were closed and I never feel like a trip to the pub post hypo. I could have just gone for an amble but I wanted a purpose. So I decided to take a plastic tub with me up the road.

I was planning to walk up the hill to a hedgerow I knew but I didn’t get that far. Just as the houses were coming to an end, I spotted a closer target – some blackberries at the side of the road. The lid was off my tub and I set to work picking the few ripe berries. Being next to a road, I was not the first so there were not many ripe ones left. So I stepped over a stile into a field where the blackberry patch continued.

I had only planned to pick a few but every time I thought I had enough, I saw another great looking bunch. Each bunch of juicy blackberries, was another step into the brambles. I realised the thoughts in my mind had gone beyond “I’ll only get a few” to “I’ll stop after this bunch”. Then my thoughts turned to, “those big juicy ones are only a couple of steps away, it would be a shame to leave them”. After some  time, I found myself thinking, “if I stand on one leg and extend myself another 12 inches, I can just reach those ones” and “surely, I can reach those juicy berries over there, I just need to move a little further into the brambles”.

After thinking, “a few nettle stings and bramble prickles are nothing when you can pick those giant berries”, I realised my tubs were full. But I could still see more. I’d have to come back the next day to get the last few. And I did. I returned in my lunch break the next day and filled another tub.

Due to my workload and the weather, I was not able to visit the hedgerows for a few days. So I was champing at the bit and happy to find another hoard close to home the following weekend. Unfortunately, these were on a steep slope and I could only reach the ones at the bottom When I started to consider getting my climbing gear out of my car, I realised, I was hooked. I could chart my addiction:

  • picking some blackberries on the edge of the path is like a legal high
  • going out of my way to get to a new blackberry patch is like a class C drug: if they are located in a private field, it’s not technically legal but it is not harming anyone
  • when my desire to reach the wonderful juicy black ones means I get nettles stings and I am picking bramble prickles out of my legs, it is like a Class B drug: it could do me harm.
  • when I get the climbing gear out for the best berries, I was starting to put my life at risk for another fix. And, when there is no room in our fridge for any food apart from blackberries, it is causing harm to my partner too. This is like a Class A drug.

But before I go completely cold turkey, I need to work out what to do with my stash. Blackberry jam? Blackberry and apple crumble? Blackberry and cream filled Victoria sandwich?

It all started to keep me fit and I have found another way that exercise affects my blood glucose levels: how many carbs are there in a 100g of blackberries?

Enjoy food recipes using blackberries:
Apple and blackberry cake
Berry trifle
Blackberry upside down puddings


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