From the ruins come the sweetest berries


As I was walking along the river yesterday, I passed by one of my favorite ruins. The gardens of the beautiful mansion haven’t been tended to in years and they are covered in brambles. So from what looks like a dark and desolate place come, in August, some of my favorite berries: wild blackberries. They have a much stronger and sweeter taste than the American ones (at least than the ones I have tasted). I went home to grab a basket and my camera and came back for a late afternoon harvest.


I always thought there was something romantic about picking one’s own fruits and vegetables. I think it’s even better when they to grow wild. My goal for this fall is to learn how to find and pick my own mushrooms. At least with wild produce, there is no doubt about it being organic or not.


I intended to make a pie with the berries, but I waited too long (24 hours) and by the time I was ready to start working on the pie, I realized I had eaten half of what I’d pick… So no pie today, but if you want a good recipe for a classic French pie using any berries, just go read my strawberry pie post here: Stéphane’s strawberry pie.


82 Comments Add yours

  1. Another amazing post. The mansion just breaks my heart, to see it go to ruins like this.

  2. Oh, seeing the ruins of the mansion just made me so so sad. I sure would of loved to visit inside though. How can anyone let something so beautiful go to this decay?

  3. skd says:

    Eating fresh fruit is any day better than putting them in a pie especially when they are so fresh and sweet as you said 🙂

  4. mariekeates says:

    Those ruins are breathtakingly beautiful. I’m watching the local blackberries waiting for the optimum moment to pick.

  5. Renate Flynn says:

    I love your beautiful photos. Do I detect a 50mm f1.4? Or a 100mm f2.8? The shallow depth of field in some of your shots is used so effectively!

  6. Better for you raw than in a pie anyway, Stephane! 🙂 Sorry I’m late but we just got back from Wyoming and I head out tomorrow for a back-to-school run with our younger daughter. Not much online time in the last month or so (including our wonderful trip to France.) Hope you’re well and enjoying more great food!


  7. What a shame about the house. It looks as if it was once a very imposing building.

    Blackberries in Scotland are called brambles, and used to grow in abundance by roadsides in the country and on waste ground. Now they are actively discouraged to make places tidier, which is a pity as I love brambles and they freeze well for warming tarts and crumbles in the dismal winter months. The ones we manage to pick are usually not as luscious looking as the ones in your photos.

    Don’t know what it is about wild brambles but I find them very effective in helping get rid of a bad cold.

  8. Barbie Beaton says:

    If you are in Montana the second or third week of July you can pick huckleberries.:) Love your photos.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I don’t know if I ever had them before Barbie. Are they a little bit like blueberries? I’d love to try them…

      1. Barbie Beaton says:

        They are like blueberries but are quite small and have a tart flavor, so they’re great in pies, jam, etc. My dog discovered that he likes them too and tried to pluck them from the bush. 🙂

  9. gypsygurl64 says:

    I was becoming despondent because I couldn’t find a post from you! 😉 Great photos as always! The highlight of my day! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am so sorry I’m not posting more often. It’s a little crazy around here in August with the B&B and all. Thanks for your kind comment and continued support my dear!!!

      1. gypsygurl64 says:

        Stephane don’t be sorry! Waiting for your blog is like waiting on Christmas morning! The anticipation is great but the gift was worth it! 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Sorry for the late answer (yet again) I promise, Christmas is coming soon 😉

  10. Damn delicious!!!
    the photograph is truelly seducing me

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am so glad you liked the post! Thanks for dropping by!

  11. Oh I would love to get my hands on that old beauty. What a shame. thanks for the visual delights.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      My pleasure! 😉

  12. Steve says:

    Mushrooms. I became quite interested in hunting my own mushrooms some years back and bought a very good field guide. The author’s warning however was enough to make me sit down and let the desire pass: “The only way to know for sure if a mushroom is safe to eat, is to eat it and see if you die”. I would suggest a good dog…for finding the mushrooms and as the first “taster” (like so may Kings used to have)…if he survives 24 hrs, go ahead and make the risotto! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      In France, pharmacists are very well trained on mushrooms. People who are in doubt just have to take their mushrooms to them and they tell you if they are safe to eat. Picking cèpes is a very popular pastime around here and a lot of people are experts. After that, one just needs to cook them really well to kill the toxins. I got really sick with cèpes last year after eating them raw…

  13. Heather in Arles says:

    Oh, that mansion! I couldn’t focus on your berries…I was too busy dreaming… 😉

    Beautiful photography, comme d’hab Stephane!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Merci Heather! I love these old ruins. Very romantic they are 🙂

  14. sara says:

    Oh my, those berries! They were probably nicer eaten fresh anyway. I’m salivating just looking at them!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Berries are my favorite type of fruit, and you are right, they often taste better just eaten on their own. No sugar, no cream, no pie… 😉

      1. sara says:

        yes, mine too. it’s a bit too warm here for wild picking though – except for blueberries – they grow well here.

  15. Angeline M says:

    Hi, Stephane; I just wanted to stop and let you know that I love your photos! And now I must go check on your recipe for strawberry pie.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you so much Angeline! Yes, try the recipe and let me know how you like it 😉 Enjoy!

  16. We have them coming out of our ears out back! 🙂 They’re trying to take over our laurel bush. I wonder if your wild blackberries are superior to the American ones. Although these are sweet they are so full of seeds it’s hard to eat them! Beautiful photographs!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I don’t know if they are superior. They just don’t taste the same at all in my experience. They are always quite seedy though you’re right 😉

  17. Sandra says:

    Lovely, brings back good memories of picking blackberries with my mum as a kid. We lived in North Yorkshire and called them brambles. I’ve lived in the US for 20 years now, but never seen them growing wild.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I never saw any either when I lived there…

  18. billgncs says:

    We were in France near Melisey and as we walked in the forest, my sister’s dogs would find the berries and feast on the low ones while we picked the high ones.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Good times! 😉

  19. ladyredspecs says:

    Blackberries canes are so invasive in our climate they are considered a noxious weed and spraying programs are extensive. When I was a kid, they were abundant however. I remember picking bucketsful for jam and pies. Yum! Are there no planning protection laws to protect unloved properties of architectural significance?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They are invasive, but properties in France are always of manageable sizes. Whenever someone need to use the land, they just burn the bushes down and plant something over them.

  20. Lisa says:

    Wow the ruins are beautiful! Berries looks so luscious! I would love to see inside the ruins! I bet it was a grand place in its day! Hugz Lisa and Bear

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’d love to see inside too! It must be in a terrible state as well… These places have such charm…

  21. prettyloved says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous pictures. I’m sure they tasted amazing.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      They really did!

  22. Gorgeous pictures!

    Wild, hand picked blackberries are genuinely my favourite fruit EVER. They even beat sour cherries from my best friend’s orchard. Sweet, plump and there’s something magical about picking them in the wild.

    Beautiful post.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Catherine! Yes, wild berries are special! 😉

  23. Lovely photos as always Stephane, those blackberries look yummie – we have a few here but the weather is not helping much at the moment! 😦

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I know! I hope it doesn’t rain too much between now and the harvest. A lot of wineries couldn’t take two bad years in a row…

  24. platedujour says:

    These pictures remaind me of my childhood when my parents and I were going to the forest to look for some wild berries. I used to love to eat them with sugar and cream 🙂 beautiful pictures!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Sugar and cream is always a good idea! 😉 Thanks for your comment Marta 🙂

  25. juliabarrett says:

    Love the photos and the concept. Yes, from the ruins come the sweetest berries.

  26. Ingrid says:

    Hej! I’m cycling across your region at the moment (started off from Bordeaux today) and must say the wild blackberry bushes are incredible! They grow in Sweden too, but I’ve never seen such full bushes before. Marvellous.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I hope you stopped to taste some! The are ripe when they fall in your hand without having to pull too hard. They go from ripe to rotten in a matter of hours… Enjoy your vacation Ingrid!!

  27. chef mimi says:

    Gorgeous!!! It’s too hot for berry bushes where I live, sadly…

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Yes, but you have beautiful snakes! I don’t have beautiful snakes… The grass is always greener… 🙂 (Sorry! Tired!)

  28. Conor Bofin says:

    As kids, we collected wild berries along the coast where we lived. They never made it to a pie either.
    Hope you are well,

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am fine. How are you and Sharon doing? I haven’t had much time to write these past few weeks (or read for that matter). I’ll go check on your blog right now 😉

      1. Conor Bofin says:

        We are in good form. Looking forward to cooking more now that the summer is slowly coming to a close.

  29. sabine says:

    Looking at the berry shots, I found myself wondering what you would do with your wonderful harvest! And then, what a funny turn to your story (eating up your ingredients) – that´s a great way to keep tension high 😉
    Besides, great photos of this romantic, enchanted mansion. likelikelike!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Sabine! You made me smile 😉

  30. I just collected a bunch of lavender and have access to wild blackberries……you and your readers have fantastic ideas for yumminess. And once again, I will say that it sounds like we are in similar ecosystems. The forests here abound with chanterelles.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh what I wouldn’t give for scrambled eggs with chanterelles right now… 😉

  31. I have blackberries growing wild all along the perimeter of our yard. They are incredibly invasive vines. However once ripened very sweet. Unfortunately the birds get to them as soon as they ripen and leave none for us!

    It amazes me that such a beautiful old home is empty. I suppose they reach the point where it would be too expensive to fix. But still the architecture must have been incredible when first built!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is so sad. Most times this happens in France, it’s because several kids inherited the property and they can’t agree on what to do with it… One of my favorite ones is a huge castle next to my house. It now belongs to a big corporation that couldn’t care less about architecture and heritage…

      1. Oh I would love to take pictures of it!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I’ll take you there!

  32. mmmarzipan says:

    Absolutely stunning shots. What an amazing looking place!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is quite special indeed, especially when you think that the river runs right by it… I wish I had known it in its glory days…

  33. Wonderful photos, as always. And there’s nothing like eating fresh wild blackberries that you’ve picked yourself. I think the pie can wait 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I think so too 😉 I feel too lazy anyway 🙂 Thanks for the lovely comment Kay!

  34. Wild blackberries are indeed good. I had the pleasure of picking some myself earlier in the summer. One of my daughters was amazed that I ate the fruit that I picked. I think that she is under the impression that if it doesn’t come from the market, it is not safe. As a kid, we picked many wild fruit. Apples, pears, plums, peaches. One I particularly enjoyed picking and eating is Muscadine grapes. I’d eat them until I got sick!

    Thank you for sharing your experience. As you know, I am a fan of your work and will come to visit as often as I can. Have a great day.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Darren! You need to come here during harvest. You’d be able to gorge on grapes until you get sick 😉 One berry I love but have never had the chance to pick myself are blueberries… Maybe next year… 😉

      1. No…if I come there I won’t come back home! 🙂 Too beautiful there!

  35. Eating the berries is a great excuse for not being able to make a pie! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That is EXACTLY what I thought to myself 🙂 😉

  36. Miam, miam! This post brought back memories of my own berry picking. My mother’s last house was next to a creek that was lined with wild blackberries. We would wait with anticipation for the berries to ripen enough to pick then we’d gorge ourselves on the berries while we picked. My mom made pies and ice cream sauce with them. Those wild berries were so plump, juicy and sweet. I wonder if she’s thought about them since she moved to FL. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am sure that even if she hasn’t thought about them, she often thinks of those glorious days with her happy kids… Such priceless memories…

  37. Julie says:

    What a hauntingly beautiful “ruin”…I look at that and think what it was in the day and what it could be. Amazing, amazing place.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Isn’t it gorgeous?! Ah if I had a few millions in the bank…

  38. My wife made me a lovely apple and blackberry pie some weeks ago using wild blackberries. It was delicious, but I have to admit that your fruit looks much more appetising than what we found! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Chris! I should have thought of combining apples ore pears with the few berries I had left. It’s a great idea!! Your wife must be a goddess in the kitchen 😉

      1. You’ve just made my wife smile! 🙂

  39. solaner says:

    Stéphane, you’re very talented in decorating, arranging and photographing food. Well done!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you so much for such a kind comment! I think most of my good photos are the result of a lot of luck and great light… Evening light would make anything look appealing 🙂

      1. solaner says:

        that’s true, Stéphane. 🙂

  40. I made a delicious blackberry and lemon tray bake with blackberries from my garden the other week. Your photography is stunning. You can not beat blackberry pie. You might like my lavender and lemon shortbread recipe. Take care. Emma.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know I have never had lavender in a dessert, but I hear it’s terrific. I’ll have to check your recipe out Emma;)

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