August signals the height of Summer, and it brings one of my favorite things to do:
picking blackberries! Although I like picking all sorts of berries, blackberries hold a special enchantment for me. These succulent onyx jewels from Mother Nature are prolific this time of year, and you can easily find them on hiking trails, in parks, or on farms.
Whilst there is something primal, and deeply satisfying to forage for edible fruits in the wild, I do like picking blackberries on a farm where the vines are laid out in rolls and trellised. One advantage is that it makes picking a lot easier. ( Anyone who has foraged for blackberries in thick, sprawling bushes know that it can be quite a task as the vines are very thorny, snagging onto clothing and pricking delicate skin. The “ouch” factor can be quite high!) Not so on a farm.
My favorite place to gather berries are at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, which is off Highway 1, towards Santa Cruz. My last visit there in late July was simply magical.
A soft summer sun hung in the sky, as a gently breeze blew the blackberry tendrils, causing me to feel that they were dancing with me as I looked for the ripest, most turgid, berries to pick. And once I got started, I couldn’t stop!
I turn into a greedy berry picker, wanting to pick every ripe berry I could get my hands on! Or is it that the berries cast a spell upon me?
“Pick me, pick me, I am ready, I am ready to leave the vine. Pick me now.”
I ended up with almost ten pounds!
Blackberry Facts and a Bit of Folklore
- Blackberries turn from pale green to red, to black. Only pick the ones which have turned black, as unripe berries are very tannic and not really edible.
- Another common name for blackberries is “bramble”, which means: prickly!
- Blackberries are a member of the rose family, as is evident by the thorns.
- What is so interesting about this fruit is that what we think of as a single berry, is actually a dupelet or cluster. ( Think of a cluster of grapes. ) The many tiny seeds in each dupelet contributes to the flavor and nutritional value of the fruit.
- The leaves and bark are also used in herbal healing; from treating gout, to
dysentry, and even used as a tonic to tighten the skin.
- The Native American Indians pounded the canes (vines) to make a tough fiber which was then woven into a fabric. They also utilized the canes’ naturally thorny and strong structure to build fences, and the berries were used for dying.
- Blackberry thickets attract birds including the brown thrasher, catbirds, cardinals, and mockingbirds. They are also popular with swallowtail butterflies.
- In old English folklore, brambles were believed to protect against earthbound spirits and vampires.
Berry Good Nutrition
Not only are blackberries delicious, useful, and beautiful; they are also little containers of powerful nutrients. Excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and minerals,
as well as being high in rutin, a bioflavonoid, that helps to support the integrity of blood vessels, thus useful for heart health as well as treating varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Rutin also has a calming effect on inflammation.
On top of all that, these succulent berries contain several antioxidants:
- anthocyanins: helps to prevent aging by buffering oxidative stress, while supporting brain function
- gallic acid: is anti-fungal and anti-viral
- ellagic acid: helps to reduce high blood pressure
Ways to Enjoy Blackberries
The simplest and most elegant way is to pair blackberries with hand-whipped cream.
Simply get a carton of organic heavy whipping cream, pour some in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. Get a whisk, and work that whisk back and forth until the cream holds a soft peak. Depending on how much you like fresh cream, about one cup of the liquid cream will yield enough to serve over 4 cups of fresh blackberries.
However, if you end up picking pounds of these beautiful berries, like I did, turning them into jam, ice cream, or wine or excellent options.
I have made jams and a dairy-free ice cream, so check back for those recipes. As for blackberry wine, I am searching for a good recipe. Let me know if you have one.