The other day I put forward the suggestion that the next horror movie shouldn't be about rats or spiders or alien blobs, but about brambles. This was based on personal observation of the way brambles can take over corners of gardens, edges of fields, woodlands, even railway stations. I once picked blackberries on the platform of Exeter St Davids station while waiting for a train, from a bramble that had come up the side and over the back of the platform. How nice, I thought to myself, how very nice to have fruit actually growing on a station. But that is exactly what I was meant to think. The nice fruit is a little decoy aimed at making us go "Aaaah!" and not notice the killer tentacles that follow them.
You think I exaggerate?
To be honest, I thought I was exaggerating too.
But then my wife said: "You know that book we bought in the Eden Project last week? You should see what he says about blackberries."
Yes, we have finally got to Cornwall to see the Eden Project. And on our way out of the Garden of Eden, like Adam and Eve collecting souvenirs, we bought a book called Cabbages and Kings by Jonathan Roberts, a beautifully produced HarperCollins book, which traces the historical origins of most fruit and veg. So I turned to see what Mr Roberts thought about the plant that I thought should be in a horror movie.
This was his opening remark.
"The blackberry is a primitive thug that has been turning parts of the northern hemisphere into no-go areas since well before the last Ice Age began, some 35,000 years ago..."
And as if responding to my cheers, he continues: "In late summer watch the horror-movie way its sprays search with their tips for somewhere to sucker and root. Raspberries progress underground about two metres a year and, like mushroom fairy rings, use up the available food supplies in their wake. Blackberries reach out farther and quicker, arching through the air. Introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century, they quickly became one of the country's worst weed. Kiwis joke that there are two species of blackberry in the country now: one strangling the North Island, the other the South. …