Blackberry is a delicious and versatile fruit closely related to raspberry and dewberry. Native to the Northern temperate areas of the globe, blackberry has been honored as the official fruit of the state of Alabama and is found copiously in North America and the Pacific coast. Ancient cultures perceived blackberry plant as a weed or a wild plant, yet its medicinal history goes back to more than 2000 years. History reveals the traditional usage of blackberry fruit, leaf, bark, and roots by the Romans and Greeks for healing numerous health conditions ranging from mild infections to venomous bites. In fact, during the 18th century, the Greek cure of using blackberry for treating gout was so influential in Europe that it was famously known as the ‘gout berry’.
Benefits of blackberry
- Antioxidant Potential – Blackberries contain a profuse amount of powerful antioxidants which protect the body in multiple ways. Components such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, and flavonols, particularly anthocyanosides, present in blackberries work against the harmful oxygen free molecules and counteract their action. This protective radical scavenging activity protects the body from a range of diseases caused as a consequence of oxidative damage which may be the underlying cause of many fatal conditions. Researcher Wang SY of Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in a study has concluded blackberries to have the third highest ORAC – oxygen radical absorbance capacity (antioxidant capacity) fruit, following strawberries and black raspberries.
- Anti-cancer Properties – Blackberry fruit is effective against the development of cancer including lung cancer, colon cancer, and esophageal cancer. The micro-nutrients present in blackberries exert a chemo-preventive effect and prevent the proliferation of malignant cells. Blackberry extracts inhibit carcinogenesis and associated cell signaling. It also possesses chemopreventive effects, according to a study published in Nutrition and Cancer by researchers of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. A book named ‘Cancer Uncensored’ by Christopher C. Evans mentions that blackberries can initiate anti-cancer activity owing to the presence of anthocyanin in them.
- Prevents Endothelial Dysfunction – Blackberries provide protection against the endothelial dysfunction which is characterized by an abnormal functioning of the inner lining of blood vessels. As suggested by a study cited in Elsevier’s Life Science journal, they contain useful components such as cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, which fight the oxidative activity and help in normalizing multiple critical factors implicated in such conditions. It also helps in reducing DNA damage and guards against vascular failure.
- Boosts Cognition – Blackberry also extends its beneficial effect in improving the cognitive functions of the body. A study was conducted by Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, et al., USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston on aged rats in 2013. The results suggest that the polyphenolic components present in blackberries help slow down the age-related decline in motor and cognitive activity attributing to their super antioxidant power. Regular consumption of blackberries may prove useful in enhancing memory performance and improving behavioral and neuronal functions.
- Improves Digestion – Blackberries are a source of both insoluble and soluble fiber essential for the optimum functioning of the digestive system. Insoluble fiber in blackberries encourages easy and better absorption of water in the large intestine and adds bulk to the stools. This aids in regular bowel movements, freedom from constipation, and apt digestive health.
- Healthy Heart – The richness of flavonols such as anthocyanins in blackberry makes it a heart-friendly fruit. Other useful components such as magnesium and fiber present in blackberries prevent the arteries from getting blocked and stimulate a smooth flow of blood. This reduces the risk of various heart diseases such as stroke and atherosclerosis and maintains cardiovascular health. Magnesium, in blackberries, also helps in regulating the blood pressure and prevents cardiac arrhythmia and irregular contraction.
- Boosts Immunity – Blackberries help in improving the immune system of the body, due to the presence of phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption of blackberries helps fight various pathogens and protects the body from infections and other fatal illnesses.
- Weight Management – Attributing to very low amounts of sugar, blackberries assist in healthy weight management. Effective cleaning of the bowels owing to the fiber content in blackberries and very few amounts of calories make it an excellent snack during weight loss attempts.
- Healthy Bones – Blackberry contains vital minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium strengthens the bones and magnesium facilitates the absorption of calcium and potassium into the body. In addition to this, phosphorus present in blackberry aids in the regulation of calcium, thus assisting in building strong bones and also contributing to proper cellular functioning.
- Skin Care – Blackberry is packed with multiple skin-friendly nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and other potent antioxidants. Vitamin E present in blackberry helps in maintaining the health of skin fats and prevents the skin from wrinkles. Apart from protecting the skin from oxidative damage, vitamin C, present in blackberry, is also responsible for the formation and strengthening of collagen structure which is the basis of connective tissue and thus aids in keeping the skin toned and tightened.
- Improves Vision – Blackberry is useful for maintaining healthy eyes. Regular consumption of blackberries helps in protecting the eyes from ultra-violet radiations, attributing to the presence of lutein. Lutein forms a protective pigment called macula in the area behind the retina and prevents it from the damage caused by oxidative stress and high wavelength light radiations. Furthermore, anthocyanosides and vitamins present in blackberries enhance the vision and protect the eyes from various diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract, and night blindness.
- Normal Blood Clotting – Blackberries contain a good amount of vitamin K, which helps in normal clotting of blood. It also helps in preventing excessive bleeding from slight injuries and aids in healing wounds. Vitamin K present in blackberries is also essential for protein modification and plays an important role in protecting bones from osteoporosis.
- Useful in Pregnancy – Blackberry is very beneficial for pregnant women. As a source of natural folate, blackberry contributes to the optimum growth of the cells and tissues and helps reduce the risk of birth defects in babies. Folate is a critical nutrient required for better cellular functioning in all age groups. Vitamin C and other antioxidants help boost the disease-fighting power of the expectant mother, and the presence of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus in blackberry strengthens bones and contributes to keeping her healthy. Besides, it has a refreshing taste which makes it a healthy option for a quick snack during pregnancy.
Adding blackberries to your diet
Blackberry can be added to fresh fruit salads, baked goods such as tarts, cakes, and pies or they can be used to prepare jellies or preserves. They can also be combined with other fruits to prepare fruit salsa which can be served with crisps and chips. Blackberry serves as a delicious topping over a bowl of cereals and various desserts including ice creams as well. Blackberries are also used in the preparation of wines and are available in canned and dried form too.
Use of Blackberry Leaves
Leaves of blackberry plant have been found effective in curing diarrhea and dysentery since early times, and have also been a topic of interest for modern research.  This is attributed to the abundance of astringent tannins in the herb, which helps control such conditions in the digestive tract. Another benefit of astringent tannins in blackberry leaves is their healing effect on wounds. External application of tincture or infusion made from blackberry leaves helps in the constriction of blood vessels and cure small injuries. The astringent qualities of blackberry leaf may also prove useful in the soothing a sore throat and treating hemorrhoids.
Side Effects of Blackberry
If you are not allergic to berries, then blackberries are the fruit for you. However, some pieces of evidence have shown that the presence of tannins in blackberry may contribute to the development of tumors if consumed in high concentrations. The good news is that blackberry fruit has very small quantities of tannins which usually do show any detrimental effects.
- Black tea leaf: Extra caution is advised regarding the intake of blackberry leaf tea or decoction. Consumption of large quantities of blackberry leaf tea elevates a number of tannins in the body tremendously and may cause stomach complications such as nausea and vomiting. Experts generally recommend the usage of milk in the preparation of blackberry leaf tea to neutralize the effect of tannins. People who are already suffering from cancer or have a previous history of such diseases should avoid the usage of tea made from blackberry leaves.
- Blackberry root: Blackberry root is also a profuse source of tannins and is not recommended for individuals suffering from chronic gastrointestinal problems such as colitis.
- Pregnancy and children: Pregnant and lactating mothers may eat blackberry fruit in normal amounts but should avoid the usage of blackberry leaf tea. Children under 24 months should not be given blackberry leaf tea. For older children and old people over the age of 65 years, it is recommended to consult a doctor for a correct prescription of the blackberry leaf tea.
Blackberry leaf may result in allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe. An opinion from a medical expert is always recommended to discuss an individual’s existing symptoms, correct dosage, and the potential risks before considering blackberry leaf tea for therapeutic purposes so that any undesirable conditions are avoided. In case you notice any allergic reactions post the consumption of blackberry or blackberry leaf tea, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Recipe for Blackberry Cake
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes , Cook Time: 32 minutes , Total Time: 2 hours 2 minutes
6 large eggs room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Simple Lemon Syrup:
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 Tbsp Lemon Juice from 1 large lemon
Blackberry Frosting Ingredients:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 sticks 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz Cream cheese softened at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt I used fine sea salt
12 oz blackberries
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
Crystal sprinkles optional
Prep: Preheat Oven to 350˚F. Line bottoms of two 9″ cake pans with parchment paper (do not grease the sides).
How to Make the Cake:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat 6 large eggs 1 min on high speed. With the mixer on, gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating 8-10 min until thick and fluffy.
Whisk together 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder then sift this mixture into fluffy egg mixture one third at a time. Fold with a spatula with each addition just until incorporated. Scrape spatula from the bottom to catch any pockets of flour and stop mixing when no streaks of flour remain. Do not over-mix or you will deflate the batter.
Divide evenly between prepared cake pans and bake at 350˚F for 23-28 minutes (my oven took 25 min), or until top is golden brown. Remove from pan by sliding a thin spatula around the edges then transfer to a wire rack and remove parchment backing. Cool cakes to room temp then slice layers equally in half with a serrated knife.
How to Make Lemon Blackberry Frosting:
Combine 2 Tbsp lemon juice with 1 cup blackberries in small saucepan. Simmer 6-7 minutes or until berries easily mash up with a fork then turn off heat. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pushing the blackberries through with a spatula until only seeds are left in strainer. Discard seeds and set the puree aside to cool completely to room temp (you should get 5 Tbsp puree).
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, cream together 3 sticks butter, 3 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp salt on low speed until combined, scraping as necessary. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until white and fluffy (2 to 3 min).
Add cream cheese 1-piece at a time and mix until combined then continue to beat 2 min until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the mixer on, drizzle in blackberry syrup 1 Tbsp at a time then beat another minute.
How to Assemble Blackberry Cake:
Slice 1 cup blackberries and set aside. Make your lemon syrup by combining 3/4 cup warm water, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 4 Tbsp Lemon Juice.
Place first cake layer on serving platter cut-side up **. Brush with 1/4 of the lemon syrup. Spread frosting over the top and layer with 1/3 sliced berries. Repeat with remaining layers placing the final layer cut-side-down, then frost the top and sides.
Pipe remaining frosting onto cake. For the roses, use a closed star Wilton 2D tip. Decorate with remaining blackberries and sprinkle sugar crystals if desired.
Recipe for Blackberry freezer jam
Yield: 8 CUPS, PREP TIME:40 MINUTES, COOK TIME:5 MINUTES
3 1/4 cups mashed blackberries
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 box Sure Jell Pectin
1 cup light corn syrup
4 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
In a large pot (off the stove), mix the blackberries and lemon juice together, and sift in the pectin a little at a time while stirring.
Once all the pectin is mixed in, set a timer for 30 minutes and give the fruit a stir every 7 to 10 minutes.
After the 30 minutes, stir in the corn syrup and then place the pot on the stove over medium heat. Stir in the sugar a little at a time and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved (it should be good to go when the jam reaches 100 degrees F or you can just rub it between your fingers to make sure you don’t feel any grains). If it is cooked longer it will be quite runny.
Pour the jam into clean plastic containers or glass jars and place in the fridge and/or freezer.