The blackberry is actually an ancient fruit,
prescribed by the Ancient Greeks for gout, mentioned in the
Bible, and commonly written about in British folklore.
Wild blackberries are relatives of the rose
and the soft, juicy fruit grows on thorny bushes or trailing
vines. Just like a raspberry, the blackberry is called an "aggregate
fruit" because each berry is really a cluster of tiny fruits,
or druplets. Each druplet has a seed, and, unlike raspberries,
blackberry druplets remain centered around the core even after
the berry is picked.
Blackberries are considered to be an astringent
because of their high tannin content. Studies show that tannins
tighten tissue, lesson minor bleeding, and may help to alleviate
diarrohea and intestinal inflammation. German health authorities
recommend blackberries for mild infections including sore throats
and mouth irritations. Traditionally, blackberries have been
used to alleviate hemorrhoids because of their rich tannin content.
Scientists have also reported antitumor properties associated
with tannins found in some varieties of blackberries. Overindulgence
of tannin-rich blackberries may lead to constipation.
Blackberries abound in antioxidants, such
as anthocyanin pigments, responsible for the purplish-black
colour of blackberries and may impart health benefits because
of their antioxidant properties. Additional antioxidants in
blackberries are vitamins C and E, and ellagic acid; all may
provide protection against cancer and chronic disease. Cooking
does not seem to destroy ellagic acid, so even blackberry jams
and desserts retain ellagic acid health benefits. Interestingly,
blackberries are a natural source of salicylate, an active substance
found in aspirin. Potential benefits have yet to be explored
and some experts advise caution to particularly aspirin-sensitive
individuals. Because of their many tiny seeds, blackberries
are a source of soluble fibre, such as pectin.
Blackberries are consumed fresh, frozen,
and canned, and are commonly made into jams, juices, syrups,
desserts, and even wine.
Choose blackberries that are moderately firm, plump, dry, and
uniform in dark purplish-black color. Fresh blackberries are
not always readily available in stores because quality is lost
during shipping. When purchasing, be sure to check the bottom
of the blackberry container to ensure that there are no mouldy
or crushed berries.
Blackberries (in fact berries in general) are among the most
perishable of fruits; they can turn soft, mushy, and mouldy
within 24 hours. Blackberries are best used the same day that
they are gathered or purchased. When you bring home a box of
berries, turn it out and check the fruit. Remove soft, overripe
berries for immediate consumption; discard any smashed or mouldy
berries and gently blot the remainder dry with a paper towel.
Return the berries to the box, or, better still, spread them
on a shallow plate or pan and cover with paper towels, then
with plastic wrap. Blackberries will keep for about 2 days.
Although blackberries have a short season and are highly perishable,
they freeze quite well, allowing you to enjoy them practically
all year round. You can buy pre packaged frozen berries, but
these may have sweetener added. Freezing berries yourself is
simple. Place berries (wash and dry only if necessary) in a
single layer, slightly apart on a baking sheet. Place the berries
in the freezer until they are solidly frozen, and then transfer
them to an airtight container or heavy plastic bag, seal tight,
pressing out all air, label and date. They will keep for 6 months.
Use fresh blackberries as soon as possible because of their
limited freshness. Sort berries again before serving, discarding
any stems and mouldy or squashed berries. Gently rinse the fruit,
drain, and gently pat dry.
Serve fresh blackberries as they are, drizzled
with honey or tossed with a little sugar. Or make a fruit salad
with a combination of berries.
Fresh, or frozen blackberries may be used
for jams. If using fresh berries, keep a few unripened berries
in the mixture as they help to set the jam.