The blackberry, sweet and slightly tart, is so unassuming you’d never expect it to be the powerhouse of berries.
Blackberries — not be confused with its cousin, the black raspberry — are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, potassium and vitamins C and A. Blackberries also contain anthocyanins, a compound that gives the fruit its color. All fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but they are especially concentrated in berries, especially raspberries and blackberries. Some clinical trials have even been found blackberry concentrates to cause some forms of cancer to slow in growth, and others to regress.
Blackberries are coming into season across the area. You can find them at the grocery store, farmers markets and even a u-pick farm, but they are also in ample supply for free to the forager with some time to spare — as long as you don’t mind a few scratches from the thorns. Blackberry brambles are a fairly common sight out on McClellan, on fences along country roads and even in the city limits — I found mine on a cleared spot of mountain overlooking south Anniston. For maximum protection, wear long sleeves and jeans and don’t forget a belt — you can attach the handle of your bucket through it and have both hands free for picking.
Berries don’t keep for very long, usually only a couple of days, even in the refrigerator. The easiest way to preserve them is by freezing; just place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the berries to a freezer bag and enjoy later in smoothies, baked goods or as a tasty topping on ice cream.
Typically, do not rinse the berries until they are ready to be consumed or frozen, as the extra moisture can lead to quicker spoilage. I, however, did rinse all of mine at the same time and gave them a twirl in our salad spinner to expel the extra moisture.
Blackberry vs. Raspberry
The berries are very similar, but can be distinguished from each other easily. Raspberries are hollow on the inside, and have little “hairs” while blackberries have a white core and lack hairs. Blackberries are more heat and drought tolerant than raspberries, so they’re much more common in Alabama. Both types of berries contain concentrated levels of anthocyanins.
EASIEST BERRY CRISP
I used blackberries I foraged, strawberries picked last month from C. Watts Farm in Munford and a handful of blueberries from my bushes. I used sorghum syrup for the sweetener in the berry mix, but kept the brown sugar for the topping. I also used almond flour in place of all-purpose flour.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish
5 cups mixed berries, such as chopped strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly butter an 8- or 9-inch-square baking dish or 9-inch pie plate.
In a large bowl, combine fruit, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of flour and toss until evenly coated. Transfer to the buttered baking dish.
To make topping, stir together oats, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into oat mixture until well-combined. Spread topping over fruit, pressing down slightly.
Bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit is tender and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and serve warm.
— Adapted from wholefoodmarkets.com