The word “blackberry” comes from the old 12th-century word “blaceberian,” which means “black + berry.” It can also be traced back to the fruit of the bramble.
Mythology & History
Blackberries have been foraged and enjoyed for over 8,000 years, making them a beloved fruit for centuries. In Western Europe, blackberries are particularly prized, and they are enthusiastically collected and eaten during this time of year in the UK and Ireland. Blackberrying has even become a special cultural pastime in these regions.
According to Greek mythology, the hero Belleraphon was thrown into brambles after he dared to ride the Pegasus to Mount Olympus. He was blinded by the thorns in his fall and wandered alone and outcast thereafter. However, the Greeks also believed blackberries to be a cure for mouth and throat diseases.
During the Civil War, blackberry tea was said to be the best cure for dysentery. Temporary truces were declared throughout the conflict to allow both Union and Confederate soldiers to forage for blackberries.
Botany Blackberries are edible fruit produced by many species in the genus Rubus in the family Rosaceae. There are now as many as 2,000 varieties of Rubus fruticosus worldwide, and surprisingly, the study of blackberries is called “batology.”
A blackberry is not actually a berry, but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets ripening to a black or dark purple fruit. Unripe blackberries are red in color before they are ripe, and the blackberry’s deep purple colour has been said to represent Christ’s blood and the crown of thorns.
Picking Blackberries Positive foraging experiences like collecting blackberries can lift the soul and set a lifelong interest in nature and natural, unprocessed foods. When picking blackberries, remember to take care not to damage habitats by trampling all over them, pick from above your waist, and leave 1/3 for nature. Only pick the big, juicy, ripe ones, and handle blackberries gently as they are fragile.
Berry Meringue Roulade
How to Store Blackberries
To store blackberries, wash them well with cold water (or cold water and apple cider vinegar) and leave them to soak with a little salt to kill any bugs. Fresh blackberries will last a day or two.
Nutritional Benefits of Blackberries
Blackberries are a rich source of phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, salicylic acid, and fibre, which contribute to numerous health benefits. In just 100 grams, raw cultivated blackberries provide 43 calories and contain 20% or more of the Daily Value of dietary fibre, manganese (31% DV), vitamin C (25-35% DV), and vitamin K (19%).
The anthocyanins found in blackberries, which give them their rich, dark color, are responsible for their higher levels of antioxidants compared to blueberries. This makes blackberries great for preventing cancer and heart disease, improving immune function, digestive health, and heart function, managing blood sugar levels, and contributing to weight management, strong bones, improved eyesight, proper blood clotting, and healthier skin.
The nutrient content of blackberries is also beneficial for cognitive skills, as studies show that they help reduce brain inflammation and memory loss associated with aging. Blackberries can also help reduce the size of stomach ulcers and may help prevent both breast and cervical cancer in women due to their high concentration of phytoestrogens.
Additionally, blackberries are a rich source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy teeth and bones, and vitamin C, which aids in collagen formation, helps heal wounds, and reduces free radicals in the body. The high fibre content of blackberries also helps to prevent constipation.
Lastly, blackberries have been used for centuries for their health benefits. In traditional English folklore, passing under the archway formed by a bramble branch is said to cure hernias, ruptures, pimples, and boils. Blackberries have also been used as hair dye and are considered to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer due to the level of ellagic acid they contain. So why not take a picking expedition and enjoy all the health benefits that blackberries have to offer?