About BlackberriesEditBlackberries are edible fruits produced by several species of the Rubus genus of the Rosaceae family. Botanically speaking, the blackberry is not a true berry; instead, it is known as an aggregate fruit, composed of drupelets. The plants typically have biennial stems (known as canes) and perennial roots, meaning they will return year after year. Blackberries and their relatives, the raspberries, are also called 'caneberries' or 'brambles'. Blackberries are part of a widespread and well-known group of over 375 different species, many of which are related to species in South America and the temperate northern hemisphere that reproduce asexually without fertilization (apomixis).
Oregon, in the United States of America, is the largest producer of blackberries in the world. 42.6 million pounds were produced in 1995 and over 56.1 million pounds were harvested in 2009. In terms of sheer acreage for blackberry production, the country of Serbia leads the world whereas Oregon leads in the volume of fruit produced.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for amateur and commercial production in both Europe and the United States. Blackberries tend to hybridize easily, so many cultivars have more than one species in their ancestry.
Marionberries are an important cultivar developed as a cross between 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' (also known as olallieberries). The marionberry is named after Marion County, Oregon, where it was extensively tested. The 'Olallie' is another type of blackberry that is a hybridization of loganberries and youngberries. 'Marion', 'Chehalem' and 'Olallie' are just three of many blackberry cultivars developed by the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) blackberry breeding program at Oregon State University.
Recently, prickle-free cultivars of blackberries have been developed. Some strains include 'Black Diamond', 'Black Pearl' and 'Nightfall.' Early ripening strains include 'Obsidian' and 'Metolius.' 'Black Diamond' is now the leading cultivar of blackberry being planted in the Pacific Northwest. A few other strains produced from the breeding program include, but are not limited to, 'Waldo', 'Siskiyou', 'Black Butte', 'Kotata', 'Pacific' and 'Cascade.'
Other cultivars of blackberries include those that trail and require a trellis for support; these thrive best in the climates of the Pacific Northwest, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile and the Mediterranean countries. Semi-erect and prickle-free cultivars also are available; they are crown-forming, vigorous and need a trellis for support. A strain of erect blackberry has been produced by the University of Arkansas; they are less vigorous than the semi-erect types and produce new canes from root initials (meaning they spread underground like raspberries).
Blackberries are popular for use in jams, seedless jellies and occasionally, wine. They are often mixed with apples for pies and crumbles. They are also popular in baked goods such as muffins and cakes. They are also enjoyed when eaten out of hand, like most other fresh berries. Serve blackberries with a dollop of fresh sweetened whipped cream for a luxurious dessert.
Because blackberry shrubs are excellent nectar producers, honey from bees that have fed extensively on the shrubs will yield a medium to dark, fruity honey.
Blackberries are extraordinarily healthy for consumption as they are high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and manganese. They also provide trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Blackberries rank highly among fruits for their antioxidant strength because of the dense concentration of polyphenolic compounds such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins. These compounds are naturally occuring chemicals that help to upregulate certain metabolic functions in mammals. Blackberry root is astringent and has been known to be used in herbal medicine as a treatment for diarrhea and dystentery.
Blackberries are loaded with seeds that also pack a decent amount of nutrition. The seeds have some oil which are rich in omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids. There are also trace amounts of protein, dietary fiber, carotenoids, ellagitannins and ellagic acid.