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BYOB - Bring Your Own Blackberries

Blackberries are loaded with healthful benefits, but picking them yourself can be a challenge.

In May and June, blackberry bushes with their familiar thorny canes begin showing up along highways and in thickets. They also can become a surprising presence in yards, even those that are full of hard red clay soil. Interest in all types of berries is on the rise due to their healthful benefits. They're loaded with antioxidants that are proving to be cancer-fighting agents as well as providing many important vitamins.

One interesting fact about blackberries is that they're not berries at all. They're in a group called brambles, and that includes raspberries and strawberries, plus roses! (scroll to read more...)

 

If you're familiar with the process of picking blackberries, you know the red ones are still too tart. Once they reach that deep purple stage and are fairly soft, that's when they're the best. Still a bit tart, however, which is why many folks add sugar even when eating them fresh.

Fresh Blackberries are a Thorny Proposition

Blackberries don't ship well and a majority of them at commercial growers are turned into jams, pie fillings, or sold frozen. In season, farmers' markets are the best outlet. If you're tempted to pick them yourself, be forewarned. The bramble reference means you're heading into a prickly thicket that defies even garden gloves. Heavy-duty clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt is recommended and leather gloves may also be helpful. If you find them growing along the ground, it may also be easier to use a stick, dowel, or trowel to lift the vines and turn the berries upward for picking.

Thorns and thickets aren't the worst of it, either. Poison ivy and poison oak often intertwine with the blackberry canes - another good reason for long sleeves. You'll also be competing with wild creatures for the berries as well as invading their hideouts. Many report that snakes are very fond of hiding amongst blackberry bushes. When on the hunt for blackberries, avoid those along busy roads - they may have received a heavy dose of weedkiller. If you're lucky, there may be farms nearby that allow you to pick your own. At markets, you'll find them packaged by the half-pint, which is equal to about one cup.

Brambles in the Back Yard

Blackberries are also invasive plants, so don't be tempted to grow them at home. When they do appear, most people work to eradicate them. Even so, they'll probably return. Any place a cane rests on soil, it will take root and continue to spread. Those that crawl along the ground are called dewberries. Truly, the neighbors will eventually find less appreciation for your greenery when it becomes theirs!

Blackberry Care

Once you're ready to store blackberries, keep them separated in the fridge. Don't wash until you're going to prepare them, as they'll become more mushy. You can also freeze them as is; washing beforehand is your choice, but once thawed, be sure they're cleaned. Place individually on a tray first then store grouped in a plastic bag or container.

Back to Blackberry Health Benefits

You should never feel guilty indulging in blackberries. They lack cholesterol to begin with. Next, you'll find them filled with Vitamin C and folate. Experts suggest they also have properties that can reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Even better for some, those antioxidants may indeed slow the human aging process. Now, that's bargain worth biting into!

 

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