What are Blackberries?

Not to be confused with the inedible wireless handheld device of the same name that is so commonly associated with the professional and business worlds, the blackberries we are going to be talking about here are the fruits that happen to be borne by the dense and thorny branches of the shrubs that happen to belong to the genus Rubus, particularly the species Rubus fruticosus, ultimately stemming from the family Rosaceae.

The blackberries, however, despite their name, are not actually true berries in the strict botanical sense of the word, but rather they are considered as an aggregate fruit that happens to be composed of many individual round structures that happen to be called drupelets that happen to be clustered together to give the blackberries their distinctive irregular and alveolar shape.

However, true to their name at the very same time, the blackberries do happen to have a very dark and deep black coloration in comparison to other more popular berries like the blueberry or the strawberry, thanks in large part to their abundant possession of pigments that happen to be called anthocyanins, which have been shown to act as antioxidants in vitro but not physiologically to a statistically significant degree, unfortunately.

The blackberry is, apart from its namesake black color of course, distinguishable from its relatives among the raspberries, which happen to share the same genus as the blackberry, by the fact that its stem remains attached to the fruit when picked from the branch of the shrub, which is not quite the case with the raspberry that ends up with a hollowed center after being picked from the branch as the stem does not stay with the fruit. As alluded to earlier on, the shrub on which the blackberry grows and from which it can be picked forms a rough, thorny, and dense thicket called a bramble, giving rise to the blackberry’s alternate though somewhat less popular name of “brambleberry.”

History of Blackberries

The known human history of blackberries as a food item stretches as far back as two thousand five hundred years into the recorded past, tracing back to the so-called Haraldskær Woman, who was a Danish woman whose naturally preserved remains, specifically in regards to her stomach contents, were found to contain an abundance of the remains of eaten blackberries.

This likely indicates that the blackberry fruit may have been consumed by others as well in the woman’s family or vicinity, and indeed in general by animals and human cultures and societies with access to shrubs bearing the blackberry fruit on their branches, assuming, of course, they would not have been deterred by the plant’s natural defense mechanism in the form of thorns and density. In addition to eating them after having directly picked from the shrub’s vine, various peoples have long used them in the form of such food items as jam, jelly, and filling for making pie and various desserts. Apart from being eaten as food, blackberries were long used to make and drink wine, as recorded as 1696 in the London Pharmacopoeia and many other studies and documented resources.

In addition to consuming blackberries and products made from them for the simple sake of their distinctive and sweet taste, blackberries and the shrubs they happen to grow on have long also been used as medicines in the Western world by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Different parts of the plant had been long used for various treatments for an assortment of different diseases. For example, the blackberry fruit itself, with its high levels of vitamin C, could have been used to treat scurvy, much like the citrus juice from the lime had been for British sailors historically.

Additionally, the leaves of the blackberry shrubs could have been chewed, and the shoots, roots, leaves, bark, and stem could have been brewed as an herbal tea for the treatment of oral diseases like gingivitis and respiratory diseases like pertussis, as well as ulcers formed in the mouth and the stomach. The astringent roots had also been used in treating such gastrointestinal ailments as diarrhea and dysentery. The ancient Greeks are also believed to have chewed the leaves for their antimicrobial and antibacterial properties among other ancient people.

Apart from being used in food, medicine, and beverages like wine and tea, the blackberry shrub and fruit had also found itself being used in making commercial products and goods such as dyes for clothes and as cosmetics, to mention rope and other materials. The blackberry shrub’s natural density and thorniness have also made it useful as a natural barrier to be grown around properties and the possessions contained therein to help keep potential intruders, human and otherwise, at bay.

Cultivation of Blackberries

As of today, the North American nation of Mexico continues to remain the leading blackberry producer in the world as a result in part of a great deal of economic expansion that has taken place in the twenty-first century, with the South American nation of Chile also holding its own lion’s share of the total blackberry imports. On the other hand, however, in the neighboring United States, the state of Oregon happens to be the leading blackberry producer.

Modern blackberry hybrids were experimented with for the most part in the United States from the late nineteenth century until the present day, with innovations such as more efficient harvesting and fruits selected for better taste and texture according to popular preferences. These undertakings have also led to a great degree of overlap among the various blackberry hybrids, with some blackberry hybrids containing multiple lineages in common with other blackberry hybrids.

Various different types of blackberry strains have been bred, including the rapidly growing trailing and thornless blackberries that form crowns and require structural support from trellises and happen to be less resistant to cold weather conditions, the less rapidly growing erect blackberries whose roots sprawl out underground similarly to raspberries, and other strains with cold resistance to help them survive the during the winter months whose low temperatures, in turn, catalyze the blooming of the flower buds. In regions where such conditions are not present, chemical defoliants and growth regulation helps artificially facilitate this process.

Like most other fruits, blackberries are vulnerable to their fair share of pests and predators, some of which are the same as those that affect related species like raspberries, which are part of the same genus. Diseases like anthracnose can result in the blackberry ripening unevenly and potentially with the decreased flow of sap. However, the bright side of this sword with two edges is that the different berries share some of the same cures and combinations of chemical compounds that deter pests. In addition to these measures, various practices, while planting and maintaining the shrubs physically is also important.

These include freeing the interspersed rows of grasses and weeds that can enable infestation. Additionally, as wild blackberries may be infected but asymptomatic, the safe bet is to buy and plant only those berries certified to be free of any diseases and pests like moths, weevils, and aphids. Both fresh and fermenting fruits may become targets for particular pests that lay eggs under the skin that hatch and erode the blackberry or raspberry’s quality and monetary value.

Cooking with Blackberries

The sweet and juicy blackberry fruit remains popular as an ingredient in pies, crumbles, desserts, jellies, and jams, as well as a base for creating wine. Blackberries can also pair well and mix with salads, cheese, and other fruits, not to mention they can be used as flavors for various confections. This can stir up fascination in the heart of the youth while keeping the adult healthy!

Health Benefits

1. Nutritional value

In addition to their sweet and distinctive taste, blackberries are also packed full of a diverse array of nutritious vitamins and minerals and nutrients like vitamins C, B, and K, insoluble and soluble dietary fibers minerals like manganese. One hundred grams of wild blackberries contain around a quarter of the daily recommended dietary fiber and vitamins C and K, although there are relatively smaller quantities of other nutritionally essential compounds.

The various big seeds found in the blackberries that tend not to be so popular among buyers are comprised of oil containing high quantities of both omega -3 and -6 fatty acids, dietary fibers, proteins, tannins, and antioxidants that study after study shows can help slow the progression of degenerative diseases like cancer and help maintain brain and heart health.

Blood sugar levels can also be kept low, as the blackberry, when consumed in moderate amounts, can satisfy the individual’s sweet tooth with having a relatively low-calorie content, not to mention that blackberries contain large quantities of antioxidants which prevent the formation of dangerous free radicals in the body that are a result of oxidation reactions.

2. Medicinal value

As mentioned previously, study after study along with experience has shown the various compounds such as antioxidants contained in the different parts of the blackberry fruit and shrub can be harvested in herbal teas and chewing leaves to benefit from their medicinal and antibacterial properties, such as helping treat thrush, sore throat, and diarrhea, among other illnesses. The numerous phytochemicals such as polyphenols, which studies have shown to act as antioxidants found in blackberries, provide ample grounds for new studies.

Side Effects

1. Urine discoloration

Normal urine is of a pale-yellow hue, but can among other side effects, end up being discolored if heavily pigmented foods such as blackberries are consumed in a large enough quantity. This by itself is not particularly any cause for concern, but it could potentially mask a more serious symptom of kidney problems. If urine discoloration persists regardless of blackberry consumption, it is imperative to seek medical help while not failing to mention all dietary history, including any consumption of blackberries and the particular amount consumed daily.

2. Irresponsible consumption

The blackberry is quite healthy and contains many health benefits and very few side effects. However, like alcoholic beverages like the wine that blackberries have historically been used to create, the fruit must be consumed responsibly by individuals. For example, consumers should check with licensed medical professionals to ensure that they do not happen to have any allergies to the blackberry fruits or components of the shrubs. Additionally, excess added sugars in the form of canned blackberries and mixing with high-calorie items when making smoothies, or other food items can negate the health benefits of the blackberries, as can consuming excess amounts, which can cause various forms of toxicity and overdose due to an excess of the fiber and other compounds contained in the fruits, which can also potentially harm the heart and the brain. Therefore, studies recommend moderate consumption of the blackberries to reap its benefits and avoid any potential adverse side effects.

Summary and Review

Study after study has clearly and definitively demonstrated the health benefits of the delicious but no less nutritious blackberries. Wild blackberries contain more of the natural vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, health benefits, and other nutritious qualities generally found in blackberries. Studies have shown that blackberries, especially wild blackberries, positively affect blood sugar levels and the brain and heart, with minimal if any side effects. However, it is important to keep in mind that the handheld devices that share the same name as the edible and nutritious blackberries found in nature, but without the nutritious vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber may actually be associated with elevated blood sugar levels and a stressed heart and brain!

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