What is a blackberry?
Happily married with both savoury and sweet dishes, luscious, nutritious blackberries can complement a simple plate of fresh, soft white cheese or tumble onto your plate as you take your first piece of freshly baked tart.
Blackberries are native to Australia, Asia, Europe and North and South America. Early European settlers found wild blackberries growing on vast tracts of land and used them as food and for medicinal purposes. Landowners also planted prickly blackberry bushes to keep out intruders and wildlife. A thornless variety of the European blackberry was developed in the USA in 1930.
Blackberries now grown commercially for eating in Australia are cultivars that are specifically bred for market. The first European blackberry was introduced from Britain in the 1830s. Although the European blackberries growing wild in southern Australia are considered a weed that should be destroyed, over 10 species of native Australian blackberry should be protected.
In Australia, cultivated blackberries are sold in punnets (containers) but not by variety. They are black and oval shaped, each berry made up of a number of small, round globules (drupelets).
Wild European blackberries can also be found growing throughout Australia in bushland, parks, pastures and orchards and beside roads. These blackberries are considered a Weed of National Significance and now cover an estimated 8.8 million hectares of southern Australia.
Why blackberries are good to eat
Blackberries are a good source of vitamins A, C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function), magnesium and copper.
Blackberries contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
Energy – 100 g of blackberries supplies 180 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Cultivated blackberry plants grow best in areas with high rainfall. The plant is a shrub with prickly stems that can arch or trail along the ground. Blackberry plants form prickly thickets that can cover several metres of ground.
White or pink flowers grow on the shrub. Blackberries change colour as they ripen, from green to red to black. The blackberry plant is semi-deciduous and loses leaves in winter.
Choose blackberries that are plump, firm and uniform in colour. Avoid blackberries that look soft or shrivelled. Also avoid selecting punnets stained with blackberry juice or those that have mouldy berries.
How to store and keep blackberries
Store blackberries in their container in your fridge. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Use blackberries within two or three days of buying.
How to use
- Make blackberry triangles – place a mixture of cream cheese, cinnamon, sugar and blackberries on squares of puff pastry, then fold over to make a triangle and bake until golden.
- Serve a colourful entrée – combine segments of orange, slices of fennel and shallots and salad leaves with blackberries, place on a plate then add cooked prawns on top and drizzle with a citrus vinaigrette before serving.
- Add an Asian twist to your salad – arrange salad greens, blackberries, sliced pears and red onion on a platter, then sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds and drizzle with sesame oil and ginger dressing.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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