How can one forego the brambly blackberry? My first foraging feat for these berries, which I’ve only previously seen in grocery stores at an exorbitant price, was everything but enjoyable. My bounty that first time was of cuts and lesions, because sadly (yes, there were tears) my pail emptied itself amongst the impenetrable labyrinth of thorns. Lessons learned that day were: do not wear loose, flowing clothing or flip flops, have long hair tied back, and watch your footing as if you were walking through a minefield as those barbed branches seem to come alive solely to grab your ankles. I have had many bountiful pickings since then, but have never managed to come home unscathed.
Blackberries are a delicious little aggregate fruit that grow wild and/or are cultivated on every temperate continent including Africa and Asia. They are easily identifiable by their rambling growth, thorns, and very dark blue raspberry like berries. Surprisingly their nutritional benefits outweigh the hassle of picking them.
These berries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, making it one of the best cancer prevention foods out there as well as one of the richest sources of fiber in the plant kingdom. Blackberries are also composed significantly of high amounts of phenolic flavonaoid phytochemicals, Vitamins C, B, A, E, and K, potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium. Some of the health benefits of blackberries include alleviating inflammation, sun damage, macular degeneration, labour pains, symptoms of menopause, PMS, digestive tract issues and neurological diseases. Blackberries can inhibit the growth and spread of tumors, help in the production of white and red blood cells, lower the risk of heart disease, promote the healthy tightening of tissue, which makes skin look younger. Prolonged consumption also helps to keep your brain alert thereby maintaining clarity of thought and good memory. I feel it is definitely worth the effort of foraging to have such a medicinally vibrant and delicious berry in your fridge and freezer.
Blackberries can be eaten fresh, frozen, dried or canned. They are popularly made into jams, syrups, juices, desserts, and even wine. To make a delicious and easy blackberry jam all you need is:
4 cups blackberries
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Mash blackberries in a saucepan with a potato masher. Stir in sugar until juices form; place about 1 tablespoon blackberry juice in a small bowl and stir in cornstarch. Pour cornstarch mixture into saucepan.
Bring berries to a boil, stirring often, until jam is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and allspice. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer jam to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled. Stir in lemon juice.
Dress appropriately and have fun foraging for these nutritional darlings of the berry world, valley friends.