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Blueberries: Northern Highbush »« Bananas: Cavendish

Blackberries

Rubus fruticosus


Description

Blackberries, or brambles if you’re British, are a late summer and early autumn fruit that’s good news if you’re inclined towards scavenging. Not only do they grow wild to the point of being considered a noxious weed, it’s also widely believed that wild blackberries have more flavour than cultivated varieties.

If, however, you don’t live near any wild blackberry bushes, you’ll often find them at pick-your-own farms. Blackberries aren’t normally found in supermarkets or fruit shops, due to the difficulty of transporting them.

Tart but sweet, blackberries aren’t really a berry; they’re actually a member of the rose family and an aggregate fruit composed of lots of small drupelets, which essentially are mini fruits with a central stone or pip.

Blackberries are a good source of vitamins C and K, fibre, and folate, as well as containing other trace minerals such as iron, potassium, and calcium.

Choose blackberries that are soft and plump, and with no stem attached; if the stem is present that’s a sign the fruit was picked too early. Store in the fridge if you must, but they’re best used soon after purchase. If you buy them in a punnet, check that there are no squashed or mouldy blackberries.

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History

It’s only relatively recently that the blackberry has been cultivated, as it grows so readily in the wild. Blackberry remains have been found in early European habitations and it’s clear that it was an important autumn crop even before recorded history. It was known to the ancient Greeks for the herbal properties of its leaves, as well as the fruit.

It was introduced to Australia and New Zealand in the 1840s for fruit, but it rapidly spread and became a pest.

Uses

Blackberries can be eaten as a fruit, and go well with apples in desserts such as crumbles and tarts. They also make excellent jams and jellies due to their high pectin content, which helps them gel.

Blackberries are easy to freeze for later use; just spread them on a baking sheet so they don’t clump together, and when they’re frozen you can transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag. Use them within six months.

Facts

Old British legend says that blackberries shouldn’t be picked after 29 September, which is the Feast of St Michael, or Michaelmas. It’s said that after that date, the devil claims them for his own use/spits on them/urinates on them, depending on who you ask. This might come from the fact that the fruit is more susceptible to mould once the colder, wetter weather sets in.

If you grow grapes, blackberries make a good companion and sacrificial crop for the vines.



Blueberries: Northern Highbush »« Bananas: Cavendish

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