Blackberries

Nothing says summer like a handful of berries, especially blackberries - the "cabernet" of berries due to their deep hue and earthy, wine-like flavour. Blackberries top the chart for antioxidant power, beating out cherries, grapes and other berries. (Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, unstable oxygen molecules that damage cells.)

Blackberries

Nutrition Notes

Blackberries are a low-calorie way to increase your intake of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants called anthocyanins. One half-cup (125 ml) serving of blackberries provides four grams of dietary fibre and over 25% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C - all for only 33 calories!

Blackberries owe their rich dark hue to their strikingly high content of anthocyanins.  Lab studies have demonstrated the ability of these antioxidants to slow the growth of cancerous tumours. This research adds to growing evidence that blackberries can help reduce the risk of certain cancers, especially esophageal and colon cancers.

The vitamin C in blackberries may help prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from being oxidized by harmful free radicals. (Oxidized LDL cholesterol is more likely to build up on artery walls increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.) Blackberries also contain soluble fibre, the type that helps lower blood cholesterol.

Canada's Food Guide recommends eating 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits combined every day. Here's the nutrition information for one Food Guide serving (1/2 cup or 125 ml) of blackberries: 

Calories  33 kcal 
 Fat 0 grams 
 Carb 7 grams 
 Fibre 4 grams 
Vitamin C  16 milligrams 

(Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007)

Varieties

Botanically known as Rubus eubatus, blackberries are closely related to raspberries, as they're made up of many small juicy fruits joined together to form a berry.

In Canada, blackberries are available in more than 11 different varieties including the sweet, tart Ollallie, the tangy Marion and the mild-tasting Chester. The Ollalie blackberry is harvested in late May while other varieties are in season between July and August.

Blackberries are grown on farms in the temperate regions of northern and eastern Canada, as well as southern British Columbia. They also grow in the wild and can be found in dry open woodlands or along roadsides.

Buying

When buying loose blackberries, choose berries that are firm, plump and free of moisture or mold. The highest quality blackberries will have a uniform dark colour and good aroma. (Darker blackberries have a higher antioxidant content.)

If you're buying blackberries packaged in a clear container, make sure they're free of mold and not crushed from being packed to tightly.

Storing

Fresh blackberries should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator. They'll keep for two days in their original container or spread out on a plate covered with plastic wrap.

Blackberries can be frozen whole, unwashed, by spreading them out on cookie sheets which are then placed in the freezer. A day later, gather the raspberries and place in a plastic freezer bag or rigid plastic container, then replace in the freezer. Quickly rinse the raspberries under cold running water before using them in your recipe.

For best results, defrost your raspberries in the original container in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the ice crystals to melt slowly, with better shape retention than quick defrosting.

Frozen blackberries will store for up to one year. Don't forget to put the date on the bag to prevent freezer burn!

Preparing

Blackberries are highly perishable so wash them just before you intend to use them. (Moisture causes berries to lose their firm texture.)

When washing, gently place blackberries in a strainer and rinse briefly under cool running water.

Eating

Blackberries taste great straight out a bowl after they're washed. These juicy fruits can be added to breakfast, lunch, and dinner for extra colour, flavour and nutrients.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy

Breakfast

  • Blend one half-cup (125 ml) of blackberries with three ounces of silken tofu (90 grams) and half a banana for an antioxidant-rich smoothie.
  • Top one cup (250 ml) of plain Greek yogurt with one-half cup (125 ml) of blackberries for a high fibre start to your day.
  • Mix blackberries and strawberries with a pinch of cinnamon, lemon juice and maple syrup and serve over whole grain pancakes or waffles.
  • Add blackberries to your favourite muffin, pancake or waffle recipe.
  • Top a bowl of hot oatmeal with blackberries for extra soluble fibre and vitamin C.

Lunch & Dinner

  • Add blackberries to a spinach salad for an infusion of vitamin C, a nutrient that increases the amount of iron your body absorbs from the spinach.
  • Add one half-cup (125 ml) of blackberries to steamed green beans, allowing the heat from the beans to pull out the juices from the berries.
  • Dress up turkey or roasted chicken with blackberries by using them to replace cranberries in your favourite cranberry sauce recipe.
  • Make a blackberry glaze for your favourite fish or meat dish by simmering one cup (250 ml) of blackberries with lime juice, fresh ginger, and sugar.

Snacks and desserts

  • Blend one half-cup (125 ml) of blackberries with skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt or unsweetened plant beverage and ice for an energizing afternoon smoothie.
  • Enjoy a homemade whole grain blackberry muffin with your afternoon coffee or tea.
  • Layer plain Grek yogurt and blackberries for a healthy parfait.
  • Make a fruit salad with one half-cup (125 ml) each of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
  • Drizzle a blackberry coulis (pureed fruit sauce) over low fat frozen yogurt or angel food cake.
  • Enjoy one half-cup (125 ml) of blackberry sorbet as a low-fat treat on a hot day.

More Information

http://www.raspberryblackberry.com/ - North American Bramble Growers Association

Did you know?

  • Blackberries also contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical thought to block cancer cell growth.
  • Immature blackberries are red and hard and turn black and shiny when they ripen.