Today we are talking about blackberries
Blackberry picking is something that is part of an Irish country person’s heritage; here is the late Seamus Heaney paying tribute to the unassuming blackberry.
I too have had my adventures with the blackberry growing up. I used to disappear off down the fields for hours with a giant bowl and the dog in toe and not come back until it was full, I was inked close to resembling a pen, and my clothes were destroyed. I made a decent income many an autumn cooking up as many jars as I could of blackberry and apple jam. I had forgotten just how time-consuming this is, I must have had the patience of a saint 🙂
So I tackled the field this evening to see what I could reap.
Blackberry picking is a high risk sport and if you are afraid of the bugs this can be upgraded to the classification of ‘adventure’ sport. Here are some tips:
1. It is best not to pick blackberries along the roadside, unless it is a quiet country road with little traffic. This is to avoid pollution from car exhaust fumes. Also be sure that there is no chance that the berries you are picking have been exposed to sprays or chemicals. It is best if you know the fields that you intend picking in.
2. Blackberries are often accompanied by a lot of briars and brambles; the easiest way to get through a field filled thick with these is to step on the briars rather than to try to walk through them. However avoid destroying the field out of respect.
3. Given the above it is best to wear old clothes that don’t stick to the brambles (e.g. denim jeans) and briars and a decent pair of wellies.
4. There will be spiders, spiders webs, wasps and insects present; just so you know! Diving head first into a thicket of berries isn’t advised; and be prepared to come home with some not only in the blackberries but in your hair and clothes. I am still scratching!
5. The ripe blackberries should come off the brambles relatively easily. Avoid musty ones (especially after the first frosts), or paler firmer ones.
6. Be respectful of Mother Nature. The Native Indian Americans have a lovely rule whereby you take only every third (herb, plant, fruit) if I am remembering correctly; I too feel that it is not right to over-pick from any one branch choosing to leave some for the birds and insects.
8. If you have children with you, expect to yield less due to the “one for me, one for the bucket rule”.
9. If you intend eating the blackberries raw give them a good wash, this is to remove any additional and perhaps unwanted protein or exhilarating jumping surprises.
10. If stewing or cooking, as above, it is best to give them a rinse and remove any twigs.
Mother nature was kind to me; I managed a nice little harvest this evening.
So whereas in my youth I went on a jam making campaign I now choose to preserve the blackberries a healthier way. Tonight I stewed up the blackberries with some fresh apples from the garden. As you can see the apples were a tad on the under ripe side; but I beat the birds to them! I will sweeten up the cooked fruit with a little stevia and freeze in jam jars for later use as the cooked berries will not stay fresh for long (owing to the omission of sugar).
I decided to give the apples (in 1-inch of water) some time simmering on their own first as they would need more time than the blackberries to soften. (I actually burnt them oops; too busy writing this blog!)
Then I added in the blackberries and simmered until sufficiently soft. These were then cooled, Stevia was added for sweetening, and filled into jam jars and frozen for later consumption.
The simmered product still steaming.
I will use these berries mixed through protein or as a spread.
There are some super recipes for blackberries available on the internet; and there is no reason at all to break your Paleo diet. See here for example; looks DELISH!
And finally for some Trivia here are 10 facts about the blackberry taken from an interesting little article on the Canadian Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/31/blackberry-facts_n_2581622.html
1) Much like spinach, raisins, apples, plums and grapes, blackberries are rich in bioflavonoids and Vitamin C, but other nutritional benefits include a very low sodium count and having only 62 calories to a cup.
2) The dark blue colour ensures blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. Antioxidants, well-known for lowering the risk of a number of cancers, are a huge bonus, but be aware the berries are best consumed in their natural state to get the full benefits.
3) The berries are known by a variety of names, which include brambleberries, bramble, dewberry, thimbleberry and lawers.
4) Consumption of blackberries can help to promote the healthy tightening of tissue, which is a great non-surgical procedure to make skin look younger. Prolonged consumption also helps keeps your brain alert, thereby maintaining clarity of thought and good memory.
5) The high tannin content of blackberries provides a number of benefits to reduce intestinal inflammation, alleviate hemorrhoids and soothe the effects of diarrhea. It is important to incorporate berries in your diet in a variety of ways. Have them as a snack or in your cereal or even as a smoothie.
6) Traditionally, the leaves and barks of the plant have also been consumed. The leaves of blackberries have been used to treat mild inflammation of the gums and sometimes even sore throats.
7) The astringent tannins are effective in oral hygiene when used as a gargle or mouthwash.
8) The leaves can also be used in a refreshing cup of tea or enhanced as a therapeutic drink. Not everyone will like the flavour, so to mask the bitter taste, honey or another form of sweetener may be added.
9) The healthy dose of Vitamin K aids in muscle relaxing, so some women use the berries to alleviate labour pains. As part of a regular diet, the juice can also be used to regulate menstruation as it is very effective in helping blood to clot.
10) And finally, if you have noticed that your blackberry plant has turned orange, destroy it. This is a serious fungal disease that cannot be cured.
In Canada, blackberries are seasonal fruits and the availability of a fresh batch depends on whether you live in the North or the South. (In Ireland the berries are available the end of August to the end of September depending on the weather and first frosts).