Saturday 13 August 2011

Berry Pickin'

I went blackberry picking for the first time this summer, yesterday evening with my friend Lennie.  We emerged victorious from our quest, with 2 quarts of blackberries, numerous scratches, mosquito bites and one wasp sting.  We felt like we’d tamed a lion. 

Despite the thorns, the bugs, and the other inconveniences, I pick blackberries every year, and I pick them daily for as long as they are available.  I’m grateful to have them.

In “Still Life With Woodpecker,” Tom Robbins describes a house in Washington State completely overgrown with blackberries.  The couple living in the house gain entry and exit by means of tunnels hacked through the vines.  He’s not exaggerating much.  Blackberries are like that.

Our mild, wet climate provides perfect growing conditions for blackberry brambles.  The vines can grow up to twenty feet in a single season and will set down new roots wherever they touch the ground.  Blackberry blossoms are a Mecca for bees and other pollinators andno matter how many enthusiastic humans pick the berries there are still enough for birds and animals to feed on.  Those birds and animals deposit the seeds elsewhere in the course of their travels.  As a result, blackberries can be found on virtually every patch of uncultivated ground here on the coast.

In years when I have been very poor, frozen blackberries have sometimes been the only fruit available to me in the winter months.  In years when I’ve had more food, I’ve still been grateful to have them.  Blackberry jelly, blackberry pancake syrup, apple blackberry pie, blackberry ice cream, blackberry vinegar, blackberry scones, and blackberry glazed meats are all welcome guests at my table.

Readily available, free food is almost always a good thing but, nutritionally speaking, few foods are better than blackberries.  They have a unique structure that actually contributes to their nutritional value — Each berry an "aggregate fruit" composed of many individual drupelets, each like a small berry with one seed, surrounding a firm core called the receptacle. These individual drupelets contribute extra skin, seeds and pectin with dietary fiber value to the nutritional content of blackberries, making them among the highest fiber content plants known.[1]

Blackberries contain a substantial amount of phenolic acids: antioxidants known as anti-carcinogenic agents. They are a source of vitamins C, E and K and of potassium and manganese.  Blackberries are also high in tannins and contain rich amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fats (alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid). [2]

Worth a few scratches and bug bites I think!

I may need a bigger freezer…


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