Delicious Brambles and Blackberries: Vitamins, Baking and Phytonutrients

Berry Ripe!

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Do you love and adore soft fruit? Many people do: in the fruit kingdom, it has a special delectability that might be rooted in its very perishability and short season, for most varieties. Snacky and tempting, who can resist an expensive little punnet of blueberries or redcurrants, especially when combined with a hefty spoonful of greek yoghurt or cream?

One great alternative, if you're troubled by the expense and lack of easy availability of your favourite soft fruits, is the bramble or blackberry fruit. These yummy, attractive berries are widely available on more than one continent. And although their season may be fairly short, they're still hardier than practically any other soft fruit. Not to mention free, growing freely available in practically every hedgerow and farmer's field! And what else is great about them?

Well, they're so damn hardy and will thrive under practically any conditions, whether it's soil, moisture, weather conditions, pH level, predators or whatever. This means that they grow plentifully in the wild, and can be easily harvested in random hedgerows and fields on public land. They are easy to grow 'officially' in your own garden also, and it is not difficult to find canes for very reasonable prices in your local garden centre, dollar store/pound shop or via garden supplies websites on the internet. Alternatively you could always harvest a few 'suckers' from wild hedgerow plants: it's not difficult to root them and the difficulty about growing brambles is more a matter of controlling their eager colonisation of available territory, rather than coaxing and petting a fussy and temperamental plant!

You may want to be careful about harvesting them past their season, of course. The old wives' tale in the UK has them as forbidden fruit past October - due to having been p***ed on by the Devil, apparently!

A terrific source of vitamin C, fiber and Vitamin E amongst other goodies[4], this soft fruit is nature's contribution to your diet and your budget – free, gratis, for no money down, a fruity and delicious addition to yoghurt, porridge or cereal! Not only this, but they come packed with lots of useful antioxidants such as anthocyanins and phenols, and at least one study has suggested some efficacy of the berry against cancer cells [2] – really, what more excuse could you need to indulge!

Belonging to the Rubus genus[3], blackberries come in a wide range of sub-variants, each subtly different in appearance, but delicious in flavour and useful for culinary purposes. What would you like to make with your blackberry harvest: bramble jam, dark and sweet? (Yes? Now to find an easy blackberry jam recipe! Or bramble jelly, as you might find it labelled.) Perhaps a yummy addition to an apple crumble, or part of a chutney that provides a piquant contrast to meats such as pork and beef. There are so many potential uses for the versatile and tasty blackberry. When you go out for a day's rambling and come back with a haul of autumn's most abundant and generously delicious fruit, what will you do with it?

References.

1. Wang, S.Y., Lin, 'Antioxidant Activity in Fruits and Leaves of Blackberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry Varies with Cultivar and Developmental Stage.' H.S. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. 2000, 48:2, pp 140–146

2. Seeram, N.P., Adams, L.S., Zhang, Y., Lee, R., Sand, D., Scheuller, H.S., Heber, D. 'Blackberry, Black Raspberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Red Raspberry, and Strawberry Extracts Inhibit Growth and Stimulate Apoptosis of Human Cancer Cells In Vitro.' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2006. 54:25, pp 9329–9339

3. Angier, B. 'Field guide to edible wild plants.' Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, 1974.

4. NutritionData 'Blackberries, raw.' Nutritondata website. 2009. Available at: [http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1848/2] Accessed on: 05/10/2010.

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