Blackberry season in Maine is not for the faint of heart…
Unlike strawberries or blueberries, both of which can be easily farmed, drawing visitors in with handmade “U Pick” signs proudly staked on the side of the road, blackberries are hard won. Their whereabouts held close to the chest by locals who know. And if you’re lucky enough to be gifted a jar of blackberry jam, or – even better – a blackberry pie? Cherish it. Cherish it and hold onto the knowledge that those berries were likely paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of the person who picked them. Because blackberry brambles are NO JOKE, folks. An impenetrable thicket of thorns typically guarded by mosquitos and blackflies. Sure, you could just buy a box of delicious blackberries at the store and call it a day, but where’s the adventure in that? True blackberry season is a truck parked on the side of the road, a short (though sometimes long) hike into the woods, and your scraped up forearms covered in blackberry juice. A maniacal, if triumphant, grin on your face. I’m speaking, of course, from experience. From being raised by a woman who knows the best blackberry picking within a ten-mile radius of her home – 20 miles even. And I also know also that the miracle of a blackberry pie is not so much the pie itself, but that the person who picked the berries even lived to tell the tale.
Perhaps I sound dramatic… but the lore of blackberries makes them all the more intoxicating. They put up a fight, guarded by thorn and thicket, their juicy, dark flesh giving way to tender sweetness when they’re finally in your hand. And that dark sweetness nourishes the body in more ways than you might expect. Today I’m diving into the benefits of blackberries. They’re in season after all, so if you’re not inclined to bushwhack, getting your hands on a box of them is as simple as visiting the farmers’ market. No blood, sweat, or tears required.
What are they? Not surprisingly, thorny blackberries belong to the same family as roses, Roseceae. Native to Europe and North America and especially plentiful in the northern states, blackberries are technically not a berry but an “aggregate fruit”, which means their flesh is made up of “drupelets” or smaller nodes with a kernel and seed housed inside — in fact, blackberries are more similar to peaches than they are to berries! There are over 375 different species of blackberries, ranging in size from very small to the large varieties often found in markets.
What are the benefits? Blackberries and other dark-skinned berries and fruits are typically lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants than other fruits, making them a good choice for those looking to keep their sugar levels low while still enjoying fresh fruit! The high levels of antioxidants — specifically anthocyanins, which are found in dark-skinned fruits and berries — present in blackberries could have some anti-aging effects by promoting natural collagen production and cellular turnover. These same anthocyanins have also been found to benefit the cardiovascular system. Blackberries are also an excellent source of fibre, which aids in digestion; manganese, which has been found to boost cognitive function; and vitamins C and E, which boost immunity and aid in skin health.
How do I use them? Personally, I think blackberries are best consumed as-is or baked into a blackberry pie (if you’ve never had blackberry pie, I implore you to go out and try it). But I’ll admit, they’re pretty good tossed into smoothies, used to top raw desserts, and added to smoothie bowls too. The recipe below packs the goodness of blackberries into one delicious bowl, and combined with other dark-fleshed fruit and dark, leafy greens, will help give collagen production a boost too!
Blackberry Smoothie Bowl
½ frozen banana
1 cup frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 generous handful baby spinach or kale
2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp almond butter or coconut butter
¼ cup coconut water
Toppings: Fresh blackberries, fresh strawberries, granola, unsweetened shredded coconut
Place banana, frozen berries, greens, hemp seeds, almond or coconut butter, and coconut water in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more coconut water, if needed. Scoop into a bowl and top with blackberries, strawberries, granola and unsweetened shredded coconut. Enjoy!
+ Any favorite blackberry recipes to pass along?
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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.