Bush Craft & Wilderness Survival Articles, Gear Reviews & Videos
by George Hedgepeth
Blackberries are one of my personal favorite summer treats. They are also one of the “wild” foods that one can find available in the market, although commercial varieties are often less flavorful than berries picked in the field. One of their many great qualities is that wild, or naturalized, blackberries are available all over the world! One never need be without these tart, juicy, delicious fruits in season, no matter where your travels take you.
They have fine nutritional properties too. They are high in vitamin C and K, rich in dietary fiber, and have folic acid. They are a very good source of manganese. They have wonderful ant-oxidant properties, reaching an ORAC score of 5347 per 100 grams, including them among the top-ranked fruits. The ORAC score (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a measure of how effective a food is at absorbing free-radicals, which are highly reactive chemicals linked to cancer and other health issues.
On top of all this, blackberries are delicious. They are tart, juicy, and sweet. To me, they have more character than raspberries - which are also wonderful. They stand up well to cooking, and blackberry syrups and baked goods are “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.” Is there anything better than a dish of blackberry cobbler? A wonderful summer treat that is both simple and cooling is to top a dish of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt with a handful of blackberries. Not only does this taste great, but the berry juice and melting ice cream swirl together to create gorgeous patterns.
A trick I like to use in the field if I am using chemically decontaminated water is to squeeze half-dozen blackberries into my water container. Both the vitamin C content and the natural flavor of the blackberries will counteract the funky taste of too much chlorine or iodine. I will not swear that the anti-oxidant properties have any effect on the long-term use of these chemicals in drinking water, but they make me feel a bit better.
The fruit is not the only culinary product of this prickly shrub. The young growing tips of the plant, when they are tender enough to snap easily, may be steamed as a vegetable. I have never done this, but I have eaten quite a few raw. The leaves, either fresh or dried, make good tea. It is quite similar to commercial black tea in flavor, but has no caffeine. A blend of blackberry and bergamot is one of my summer favorite iced teas. DO NOT expect blackberry or raspberry tea to taste like fruit- those sweet “berry” teas found in gas station coolers are generally artificially flavored and sweetened junk food.
Blackberries can make good wine. A cousin of mine is a vineyard owner and wine producer, and his blackberry wine is a semi-dry, fruity, and crisp. Oddly enough, it seems to be at its best accompanying fruit. From there, one can make wonderful blackberry vinegar, which is a great base for salad dressings.
Blackberries, and indeed the rest of the Rubus genus, have quite a few medicinal uses as well, but that is another story for another publication. For now, let us appreciate the good food that these sometimes pesky plants provide. Go get some blackberries and ice cream!
Recommended resource: The Great Lakes Berry Book
Also see related article: A Forager's Bibliography
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Briar Patch Outdoors
219 Holmes Street
Durand MI 48429
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