A Few of My Favorite Things with Katina Holland

Blackberry Bonanza


Blackberries.  Oh my.  What a succulent, powerful little fruit!  The bush out behind my house is loaded and they are starting to turn that dark color that lets you know they are ready for picking.  You have to be careful though.  They grow on brambles, thorny stalks, and if you aren’t paying attention, you can end up with battle scars from picking this treat.  I love making fresh blackberry sherbet, cobbler and jam though and I am willing to risk the personal damage to my arms and legs to be able to make fresh treats.  This delicate berry contains at least a third of the daily recommended value for four important nutrients and has been found to fight everything from premature skin aging to aggressive cancers. It has a rich history and, bonus, can be used in virtually any type of food and it’s easy to grow yourself.

The blackberry is technically not just one fruit. Each blackberry consists of 80-100 small drupelets that are arranged in a circular fashion, akin to a miniature grape bunch. Each berry has a juicy pulp, a single tiny seed, and measures three to four centimeters long.  They are available all year round but thrive during spring and early summer. Blackberries grow well in a wide range of soils although good drainage is necessary and remember to plant them where they will be exposed to direct sunlight.  They require little in the way of maintenance and will spread over the years providing even more berries for you to enjoy.

One of the most widely researched health benefits of blackberries is their ability to work as a cancer-fighting food. Blackberries are full of rich antioxidants, including polyphenols, a class of antioxidants known for their cancer-fighting abilities. Specifically, anthocyanin (a particular polyphenol) is found in high concentrations in this fruit. Anthocyanins are thought of as the primary weapon blackberries use against the development of cancer. Blackberries are also rich in cyanidin 3-glucoside, ellagic acid, lignans, and the flavonoid myricetin – substances that may have cancer-protective properties.  Vitamin K may also be a factor in the anti-cancer properties of blackberries. One serving of blackberries has over a third of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, which is believed to play a part in helping prevent and fight some cancers.  

The incredible nutrient load of the small blackberry makes it a superfood possibly able to increase memory function.  Some preliminary studies, like the one done by Taylor & Francis, have shown that short-term memory seems most drastically improved by a consistent diet of blackberries.  Manganese is one nutrient present in high levels in blackberries that’s vital to brain functioning.  It also seems that blackberries and extracted compounds from them have the ability to protect brain cells from degeneration according to a study by PubMed.

Because they are high in antioxidants, blackberries are a great fruit to help protect your body from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation responsible for a massive number of diseases.  Inflammation is the root of most diseases and illnesses the body has to fight.  Blackberries naturally cause a reduction in inflammation and allow your body’s processes to happen as they should, rather than on overdrive.  

Eating blackberries may help kill oral bacteria that cause illness. According to Oregon State University, blackberries contain gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, compounds that may have antiviral and antibacterial properties. In 2012, researchers from the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina examined the effects of blackberry extract's antibacterial properties on periodontal health. After testing it on 10 different kinds of bacteria, they concluded that blackberry extract's ability to kill pathogens, along with its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, make it a promising ingredient in products designed to prevent or treat periodontal infections.

Fun Facts: Did you know blackberries are also called lawers, thimbleberries, dewberries, and brambleberries?  

Blackberries have been used by women in labor to help relieve labor pain as they have high levels of vitamin K which can act as a muscle relaxant.  How crazy is that?  

A tea made from blackberry leaves is used in alternative medicine as a remedy for diarrhea. In fact, temporary ceasefires were declared during the U.S. Civil War whenever there were dysentery outbreaks, to give the soldiers time to look for blackberry shrubs.  

Mexico is the world’s largest blackberry grower.

Blackberries are best picked when ripe.  They will not continue to ripen off the bramble.  You should however, be prepared to use or eat them as soon as you pick them.  They will go bad in just a couple of days.  You can refrigerate them to add a few extra days to their shelf life.  Freezing them however, will cause them to last for months.  Pick some fresh blackberries this weekend and meet me in the kitchen for some delicious recipes using this super fruit.  


Blackberry Vanilla Bourbon Jam

1 pound blackberries

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ cup sugar

2 tsps. vanilla bean extract

2 Tbsps. Bourbon

Tip of lemon, about 1 inch

Place three spoons in the freezer.  Place blackberries in medium saucepan and add sugar, lemon juice, vanilla bean paste and bourbon.  Using a potato masher or fork, mash the blackberries.  Add the lemon tip and let the fruit macerate for 2-4 hours.  Remove lemon tip.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.  If necessary reduce heat once boiling to keep at a gentle boil.  Cook for 10-15 minutes.  For me, this is usually about 13 minutes.  To check to see if the jam is ready, pour some jam from the pot over the back of the frozen spoon.  If the liquid runs off, it needs more time.  If the liquid stays in place, the jam is ready.  Let the jam cool and store in jars.  If you know how to preserve, go ahead and seal the jars like you normally would.  If you are going to eat it immediately or share the jars to be eaten immediately, no canning procedures are necessary.  This is a small batch and will only make about three 8oz jars.


Blackberry Sherbet

1 lb blackberries, rinsed 

1 ½ cups sugar 

1 Tbsp orange juice 

2 cups heavy cream

In a blender or food processor, add blackberries, 1 cup sugar, and orange juice.  Blend until well mixed or until desired consistency.  Press through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard seeds. Taste, and add more sugar if desired.  Stir in heavy cream. Cover and chill until cold, about 1 hour.  Pour into an ice cream maker (1 1/2-qt. or larger capacity) and freeze according to manufacturer's directions until mixture is softly frozen. Serve soft, or freeze airtight until firm, about 3 hours.


Blackberry Cobbler

3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) blackberries 

1 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup milk 

½ cup unsalted sweet cream butter, melted

Cream, whipped cream or ice cream, if desired 

In medium bowl, stir together blackberries and sugar. Let stand about 20 minutes or until fruit syrup forms. Heat oven to 375°F.  In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread in ungreased 8-inch square pan. Spoon blackberry mixture over batter.  Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until dough rises and is golden. Serve warm with cream.  


Blackberry Soda

4 cups blackberries, fresh

½ cup sugar

½ water


Sprite, Club Soda or 7up

Add blackberries, sugar and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer.  With the back of a spoon or rubber spatula, push as much liquid as possible out of the seeds and pulp remaining.  Add 3-4 Tbsps. syrup to a glass of ice.  Fill the rest of the glass with soda of choice.  If you want a more pure flavor of blackberry, use club soda.  Sometimes, I like to mix it up though so I use Sprite on occassion.  Cover the remaining syrup and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.  You can easily half this recipe if you don’t want to have as much left over.  Bonus: You can easily use this simple syrup to flavor just about anything.  Try adding it to your tea or make a blackberry cocktail!


Blackberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup ketchup

2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsps. Liquid Smoke (optional)

1 Tbsp. chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (or more if you like it real spicy)

6oz blackberries

¼ cup blackberry jam prepared above

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine all the ingredients.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scalding.  Turn heat to low, and use a potato masher to squish up any remaining berries. Cook on low for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the barbecue sauce into a fine mesh strainer positioned over a bowl. Use a spatula to mash and stir the sauce through the strainer.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for later use.

Recipe adapted from kristidoespdx.com




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