Wild Things!


Wild or cultivated, blackberries are summertime treats.

By Karen Berman

 

Sometimes called brambles, blackberries come in thousands of varieties, some wild and some cultivated — and some “semi wild, as abandoned blackberry patches, left to their own devices, thrive. The blackberry is member of the same botanical family as the raspberry, and like it, is composed of tiny juice sacs called druplets.

Blackberry bushes grow so that they are trailing, erect and semi-erect and are familiar in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Oregon produces more blackberries than anywhere else in the world.

Many varieties have been created by plant scientists. Boysenberries, for example, are large blackberries that have been crossed with raspberries and are named for botanist Rudolf Boysen. Marionberries are large, full-flavored blackberries named for their hybrid origins in Marion County, Oregon. Olallieberryies are another hybrid, christened with the Chinook Indian word for berry. Tart loganberries are another cross between blackberries and raspberries.

Blackberries and their byproducts, such as juice, tea and cordials, have been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of ailments — everything from insect stings (juice) to goiter (tea).

Blackberry Treats

Plump, juicy blackberries are fabulous just as they are, in summer fruit salads or scattered on cereal. They also make wonderful, intensely flavored mousses. Add them to smoothies and or relish them with yogurt or in homemade sorbet or ice cream. Bake them into mouthwatering cobblers, tarts and pies or cook them into jams, jellies and preserves.

Blackberries give an unexpected touch of elegance to a cheese platter, before or after dinner. For a super-simple treat, scatter some over a scoop of sour cream. Sprinkle a little sugar over the berries, too, if you like things extra sweet.

Blackberry Smoothies

Smoothies lend themselves to experimentation. You really can’t go wrong blending fresh berries with ingredients such as yogurt, frozen yogurt, milk, fruit juice, ice cubes, frozen bananas and a little sugar.

Here’s one idea: In a blender, process an 8-ounce container of vanilla yogurt with about 2 cups fresh berries and 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or to taste). Add a peeled, sliced frozen banana and process again. Add ¼ to ½ cup apple or white grape juice, processing after each addition until you get the consistency you like. (You can use this formula for any berry.)

Selecting Blackberries

Blackberries are traditionally the last berry of the season, at their peak from late summer through early fall. Choose blackberries that are plump and dry, with no soft spots or mold, and no juice leaking on the bottom of the package. Look for shiny, dark berries; if they are light-colored or have their hulls attached, they’ll often be too tart.

Handling Blackberries

Wash blackberries carefully and gently, as you do raspberries. Let them dry before storing so that they don’t spoil too quickly. The sooner you eat them, the better.

Blackberries will keep for two days to a week, covered, in the refrigerator. To freeze: rinse, drain and dry on a paper towel-lined baking sheet; when they are dry, freeze them right on the baking sheet so they don’t stick together. When frozen, transfer to a freezer container and seal tightly. Frozen berries can be added to baking recipes without thawing.