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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more. This post was brought to you by our friends at Evolution Fresh, who like fresh, flavorful ingredients as much as we do.
Today: A berry so dark, it’s empty inside.
Black raspberries are inky purple-colored berries (technically, they're aggregate fruits, not true berries) that are often confused with blackberries due to their dark coloring. If you’re not sure whether you’re looking at a black raspberry or a blackberry, black raspberries tend to be a little smaller and less shiny than blackberries, but the telltale sign is that -- like other types of raspberries -- they have a a hollow center (1, below), while blackberries have a white core.
Thanks to that deep, dark coloring, black raspberry juice can be used as a natural colorant, and for many years, the USDA used it in the dye for stamping certified meat. But black raspberries aren’t always black or purple. Remember how recessive genes in red raspberry plants can produce golden raspberries? The same thing can happen with black raspberries, too: Their pale-colored offspring will be yellow or orange in color, but will still taste similar to the dark parent plant.
More: Don’t let your berries turn to mush. Here’s how to keep them fresher, longer.
Of the three distinct species of plants that we refer to as black raspberries, you can find two of them in the U.S.; one species is native to the Northwest, with the majority of commercial production coming from Oregon, and the other can be found throughout central and eastern states. In your neck of the woods, look for them at your favorite grocery store or farmers market, and keep your eyes peeled for wild black raspberries on your next stroll.
It's easy to be distracted by the beauty of these berries; poet Stephen Burt describes them as: "…tiny black-on-black embossed / like ridges on an alligator hide." But if you’re lucky enough to find a spot to pick them yourself, it's important to remember that they're fragile, so heed Burt’s advice, and keep them "No more than three deep in the Tupperware bucket."
Although they have a different flavor, black raspberries can be used any place you’d use red raspberries -- or any other berries for that matter. Here are 11 ideas to get you started:
- Eat them straight out of their turquoise-colored punnet and see how many fingers you can stain in the process.
- Start your day with a berry-packed muffin.
- While you're at it, go all out with a breakfast of Brie and butter grits with a raspberry compote.
- Give Chambord a run for its money and infuse your own booze with black raspberries.
- Press black raspberries into custard.
- Bake them in a pie.
- Churn up a batch of black raspberry ice cream.
- Smother your berries in brown butter.
- Use them to make a shrub.
- Then, use that drinking vinegar to make a cocktail.
- Pair them with cream, honey, whiskey, and oats (trust us) in a cranachan.
What are your favorite ways to use black raspberries? Tell us in the comments!
This post was brought to you by Evolution Fresh. Check out their new pairing guide to find out which foods go best with their juices.
Photos by Mark Weinberg