Blanketing the World With Blackberries

Blackberries are edible fruits produced by over 375 species in the Rubus genus. Blackberries belong to the Rosaceae family, along with strawberries, raspberriesplumsapricotspeachescherries, quinces, apples, pears, almonds, and ornamental trees and shrubs (such as roses, meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns).

Blackberries are native to Asia, Europe. North America, Australia, Africa and South America and have the most widespread geographic origin of any fruit. Blackberries grown in specific regions are largely derived from species indigenous to those regions and no singles species dominates world production.

Blackberries have been used for centuries in Europe: there is forensic evidence from the Iron Age Haraldskær Woman that she consumed blackberries some 2500 years ago. People eat blackberries for food, use them for medicinal purposes, and plant them in hedgerows to keep out intruders. Ancient Greeks relied on blackberry to treat gout, and well into the 18th century, the fruit was called goutberry in Europe.

Pedanius Dioscorides (circa 40 AD–90 AD), a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist, recommended a decoction of blackberry branches for diarrhea and vaginal discharge. Galen of Pergamon (130 AD–200 AD), a prominent Roman physician and philosopher, prescribed chewing the new leaves to heal ulcers of the mouth and “glue together other wounds.” Palladius, the first Bishop of Ireland in the fifth century AD, provided a recipe for diamoron, blackberry syrup, made with two parts juice to one part honey.

The ancient Anglo-Saxons (550 AD–1066 AD) baked “brambleberries” into primitive pies to celebrate the first fruit feast of Lughnasadh at the beginning of August. Blackberries were called “bramble” or “brymbyl” in Old English and brombeere in German.

Tenth-century Arab physicians considered blackberries to be an aphrodisiac.

The early setters of North America found wild blackberries growing in abundance. Although some were harvested for food, the majority, because of their thorniness and vigorous growth, were look upon as a nuisance that interfered with land clearing and cultivation.

Blackberries may have been cultivated in Europe only a few years before they were cultivated in North America; a European cultivar was introduced into North America in 1850.

Around 1930, a thornless plant of the cut leaf European blackberries was discovered.

Mexico is now the leading producer of blackberries, with nearly the entire crop being produced for export into the off-season fresh markets in North America and Europe. In the United States, Oregon is the leading commercial blackberry producer, producing 56.1 million pounds on 7,000 acres in 2009. “Marion” (marketed as “marionberry”) is an important cultivar that was selected from seedlings from a cross between “Chehalem” and “Olallie” (commonly called “olallieberry”) berries. “Olallie,” in turn, is a cross between loganberry and youngberry. A loganberry, in turn, is a cross between a blackberry cultivar “Aughinbaugh” (Rubus ursinus) and a red raspberry (Rubus idaeus).

Blackberries, along with other bush berries, are packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, which are essential for optimum health.

Blackberries are very low in calories: 100 grams provide just 43 calories. They are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber (100 grams of whole blackberries provide 5.3 grams or 21% of the Daily Value for fiber). Fresh blackberries are an excellent source of vitamin C (100 grams of blackberries contain 21 milligrams or 35% of the Daily Value), which is a powerful natural antioxidant. Vitamin C helps develop resistance against infectious agents, counter inflammation, and scavenge harmful free radicals from your body.

Blackberries contain significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, tannins, quercetin, gallic acid, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. These antioxidant compounds may fight cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Blackberries can:

  1. Prevent cancerAnthocyanins, which give blackberries their dark color, are antioxidants that reduce inflammation. As antioxidants, they destroy free radicals in your body that harm cells and lead to cancer. Perhaps the greatest benefit from eating blackberries is their high level of phenolic acids, including ellagic acid, which, besides having many other potential health benefits, are antioxidant compounds and powerful anti-carcinogenic agents. Cyanidin-3-glucoside in blackberries, prevents skin cancer by inhibiting tumors from growing and spreading. Because of these compounds, blackberries have an oxygen radical absorbance capacity, or ORAC value of about 5350 µmol TE per 100 grams, placing them near the top of antioxidant fruits. The antioxidant vitamin C in blackberries protects your immune system and may lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Blackberries may reduce esophageal cancer by relieving the oxidative stress caused by Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition usually brought about by gastroesophageal reflux disease. One cup of blackberries contains 31% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber, which is associated with a decreased risk for colon cancer.
  2. Promote cardiovascular healthThe antioxidant anthocyanins in blackberries also help combat free radicals in your body that lead to heart disease. The antioxidant vitamin C in blackberries may also lower the risk of developing heart disease. The fiber in blackberries also helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
  3. Promote skin health. Blackberries, like all berries, are a great source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that protects your skin from damage from ultraviolet light, and may also repair skin damaged by the sun. The vitamin C in blackberries helps heal wounds, and may even lessen the appearance of wrinkles. 
  4. Promote eye health. The antioxidant vitamin C in blackberries may reduce your chances of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50, in which fine vision deteriorates, resulting in central vision loss.
  5. Relieve PMS and menopause symptomsPhytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant estrogens in blackberries that may help relieve the common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) like bloating and food cravings, and may even relieve menopause symptoms including hot flashes.
  6. Promote digestive healthThe fiber in blackberries promotes healthy digestion and aids in maintaining bowel regularity by bulking up the feces and reducing the time it takes them to pass all the way through your intestines.
  7. Balance blood sugarThe steady movement of blackberries’ fiber through your digestive system allows for a measured breakdown of food into its component parts. This even breakdown of food helps to curtail blood sugar spikes and rapid drops. Either extreme can upset blood sugar balance. The quantity of fiber in blackberries helps avoid both extremes. Xylitol, a low-calorie sugar alcohol in blackberry fiber, absorbs more slowly than glucose inside your gut, and thus does not cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
  8. Promote bone and blood healthBlackberries are a good source of vitamin K, offering 36% of the DV in one cup. Your body uses vitamin K for blood clotting and to aid the absorption of calcium. The copper in blackberries is required for bone metabolism as well as in production of white and red blood cells. 

Blackberries contain adequate levels of vitamin E and vitamin A and they are rich in many other health-promoting flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin, and ß-carotene in small amounts. Altogether, these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

Blackberries contain a good amount of minerals like manganese, copperpotassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. They contain good levels of B-complex group of vitamins, including folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. These vitamins act as co-factors help your body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Blackberries 

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

21 mg

35%

manganese

0.646 mg

32%

vitamin K

19.8 µg

25%

fiber

5.3 g

21%

copper

165 µg

8%

folate

25 µg

6%

vitamin E

1.17 mg

6%

potassium

162 mg

5%

magnesium

20 mg

5%

vitamin A

214 IU

4%

zinc

0.53 mg

4%

calcium

29 mg

3%

carbohydrates

10.2 g

3%

protein

1.39 g

3%

niacin

0.646 mg

3%

iron

0.62 mg

3%

pantothenic acid

0.276 mg

3%

phosphorus

22 mg

2%

Calories

43

2%

fat

0.49 g

1%

selenium

0.4 µg

1%

vitamin B6

0.03 mg

1%

thiamine

0.02 mg

1%

sodium

1 mg

0.04%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

carotene-ß

128 µg

lutein-zeaxanthin

118 µg

Blackberry season generally lasts from June to September.

In the stores, choose blackberries that bright, shiny, completely black, and plump. Avoid unripe (red), overripe, bruised, damaged, or mushy berries. In general, blackberries are highly perishable and sensitive to handling. At home, use them as soon as possible.

To store, place them in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.

Do not wash blackberries until you are ready to use them. Rinse them in a bowl of cold water, swishing them around to remove surface dirt. Gently lift them out and pat them dry using an absorbent towel. This method will also help bring them to normal room temperature, and increases their flavor.

Add blackberries to:

  • Fruit or vegetable salads
  • Non-dairy ice creams
  • Sorbets and sauces
  • Juice, jams, jellies, and syrups
  • Muffins, bread, pie, pastry, crumbles, tarts, and puddings
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