Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Blackberries and black raspberries are both dark in color, though neither one are true berries. Here's how to keep them straight and put your blackberries to good use.
Blackberries’ native distribution spans almost worldwide -- they’re found on every continent save Antarctica. As Jack Staub elaborates, “Blackberries are so weedily invasive in so many parts of the globe that many intelligent individuals would positively snort at the suggestion that one might choose to plant one.” So even if you don't want a blackberry plant in your own backyard, they should be easy enough to find in your proverbial one.
In the U.S., depending on where you are, blackberries will likely ripen between June and September (note that late-season picking does have a certain allure).
More: We won’t snort at your gardening choices if you promise to share some blackberry-stuffed scones with us.
Blackberries grow on thorny canes, like raspberries do; and, like raspberries, blackberries are aggregate fruits, not true berries. Blackberries are easily distinguished from black raspberries by their core (proper name: torus) -- or lack thereof. Whereas black raspberries are hollow inside, leaving the core behind on the plant, blackberries maintain their core (1) when they’re picked. Blackberries also look similar to mulberries, but mulberries grow on trees and tend to be more elongated in shape than blackberries.
Since blackberries maintain their core, they have a firmer structure than raspberries -- but they are still fragile. If you’re picking your own, collect blackberries in wide containers, and avoid piling them too high, lest you crush them. Blackberries are at their ripest -- and thus, their sweetest -- when they are a dull black color. But if you want to be able to store your berries in the refrigerator, pick blackberries that are shiny black, as they'll keep for longer.
When you're ready to eat your blackberry haul, we've got ideas for using them in both sweet and savory dishes -- and for putting them in drinks to be sipped.
The Shaken and Stirred
Tell us: How do you like to use blackberries?
Photos by James Ransom