Everything to Know About Cooking and Shopping for In Season Blackberries
Plus, 3 new recipes
The best way to shop? With the seasons. So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we'll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To the market, we go!
As we bid spring adieu, and welcome longer days of sun and warmth, there’s one fruit we’re all looking forward to pick: blackberries. Often overshadowed by their brighter, more noticeable cousins (see raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries), blackberries are a quintessential summer fruit that conjure memories of silky black syrup oozing from bulbous berries—destined to stain t-shirts, fingertips, and lips. In the height of their season, these dark purple morsels are sweeter and firmer than other berries, so why not toss them into your next smoothie, cocktail, cobbler, or pie?
From how to spot the best berries to all the ways you can prepare this beloved summer fruit, here’s everything you need to know to make the most of blackberry season.
1. Hello, my name is blackberry (aka brambleberry, bramble, dewberry, or thimbleberry)
Contrary to popular belief, blackberries (and raspberries) aren’t berries at all. Since each individual blackberry comprises of 20 - 50 tiny seeds filled with juice, it’s more botanically accurate to call it an “aggregated fruit.” And like raspberries, blackberries grow on brambles, aka thorny canes, which is why they’re also called “brambleberry” or simply “bramble” in some places.
As a member of the Rosaceae family, blackberries are extremely climate-friendly and undemanding; you can find them on every continent save for Antarctica. In some places, like the Pacific Northwest of North America, blackberries are so rampant, they’re considered to be an invasive species.
Fully ripened blackberries have a crisp, sharp bite and a mellow sweetness, making them excellent summer treats for lazy afternoons spent at the beach or the park. They’re also super nutritious and versatile: Blackberries can be baked, stewed, simmered, mashed, and frozen—so there’s no excuse for why you shouldn’t eat more of them this summer!
2. The nutritional benefits of blackberries
With about 22 g of fructose per cup, blackberries are, for better or worse, sweeter than other berries. Now before the guilt of having devoured 2 boxes of these berries in one sitting washes over you, we want to remind you of one thing: Even though our bodies absorb fructose and processed sugar in the same way, at least blackberries—unlike added sugars like corn syrup—come with a slew of nutritional perks.
These studded fruits are rich in fiber and vitamins C, K, and A, meaning they’re great for our bones, skin, and memory. And since we can’t produce our own immune-boosting vitamin C, eating blackberries is an excellent way to support our bodies. One serving (100 g) of blackberries contains 35% of our recommended daily intake.
Blackberries also contain some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. They’re packed with flavonoids, including a specific one responsible for its deep purple color called anthocyanin. This flavonoid contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
And what about the bitter seeds that some people dislike? We’d suggest consuming blackberries whole since the seeds have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential fats we can only obtain through our diets. They benefit our brains, hearts, metabolism, and provide our bodies with energy.
So while it’s true that blackberries are on the sweeter end, they’re also one of the more nutritious berries. There’s redemption for our summer blackberry after all!
3. How to pick and store blackberries
The harvest period for blackberries runs from June until September, with July and August being the peak months.
Depending on where you are in the world, you might have the joy of plucking blackberries straight from the vine! If you can safely forage your own berries, keep in mind there are red blackberries and black raspberries. The best way to distinguish the former from the latter is how the berries come off the stem. Blackberries snap off with part of the stem attached and their cores intact, whereas raspberries slide off, leaving their cores attached to the stem—hence why raspberries have hollow centers and blackberries do not.
Whether you forage your own berries or get them from the local supermarket or farmers’ market, keep an eye out for bundles that are plump, dark, and most importantly, dull in color. Glossy blackberries are gorgeous and tempting, but the dullness in color lets us know that the fruit has properly aged and was not picked too early. Any shade lighter than bluish-black or berries with tinges of red and green are also signifiers that the berries are unripe. Since blackberries don’t ripen after they’ve been picked, always reach for darker hues—you want to make sure your berries are succulent and flavorful, rather than astringent and tart! Avoid berries that are discolored, bruised, or oozing as these can signify fungal infestation.
To get the most out of blackberries, it’s best to eat these bad boys au naturale. Give them a quick rinse under water before popping them in your mouth, or leave in the fridge (unwashed) for up to 7 days, as leaving them out or pre-washing before chilling can lead to mold. As with most fruits, you can also freeze blackberries. To freeze, make sure to wash them, then lay the blackberries on a plate or baking tray with some distance from each other and keep in the freezer for at least an hour. Once frozen, you can move the berries to a freezer bag or airtight container and leave in the freezer for up to 10 - 12 months.
4. All the ways to enjoy blackberries
Blackberries are extremely adaptable and suited for sweet, savory, and sour palates alike: muddle them into your next cocktail or blend them up for a refreshing morning smoothie; simmer them down to a gooey compote and spoon it over pancakes, bread, cereal, meat, and cheese; chuck leftover blackberries under a blanket of dough in the oven for a cobbler, pie, or galette to share with friends.
We like to savor blackberries by eating them raw, either on their own or strewn atop anything that would benefit from a boost of berries—which is, in my opinion, just about every summer dish. You can also use fresh blackberries as garnishes for cakes, ice cream, pies, and salads. If they’re a bit sour, dip them in egg whites and sugar to make candied blackberries, or blend them with coconut milk and honey, and freeze overnight for a delicate, frozen summer delight.
5. What to make next
These lustrous purple-black gems won’t be around for long, so go ahead and throw them in where your taste buds see fit. We’ll also be featuring new blackberry recipes all week long. Check back to see what's new, then try one for yourself! Here's where to start:
Published on June 30, 2019