By Marika Varro, The Convenient Chef
Nothing says “summer!” in Powell River like freshly picked, sweet and succulent blackberries!
We have an abundance of these delicious berries and each year we look forward to celebrating the season with the Blackberry Festival street party on Marine Avenue, where one can find blackberries incorporated into many different and delicious savoury or sweet dishes as well as cocktails.
We have three varieties of blackberries in British Columbia: Himalayan, Trailing and Highbush.
They grow on thorny bushes called brambles, and are technically not just one fruit. Each blackberry has many drupelets that are arranged in a circular fashion, similar to a grape bunch. Blackberries belong to the same family as dewberries and raspberries.
They are high in vitamins C,A, E, K and B, minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid.
Their dark colour is a sign of their high antioxidants which protect against aging, inflammation, cancer and other neurological diseases.
Blackberries have a sweet, tart flavour that is very satisfying. They can be enjoyed by themselves (only 62 calories per cup), they can be added to salads or smoothies, or they can be a topping for yogurt. Use them in desserts and savoury sauces. Make them into jellies, jams and wine.
Blackberries will keep for several months in the freezer; just rinse and drain them off and store them in a Ziploc bag.
The plant is extensively used by First Nations people. Young, edible shoots are harvested in the spring, peeled and used in salads.
The root-bark and the leaves are astringent, useful for treating diarrhoea, and for soothing sore throats, mouth ulcers and gum inflammations. Traditionally, using the blackberry fruit and root bark in honey, medicinal cough syrup was made.
We must share these delicious berries with our local bears. Black bears gain weight most rapidly in July and August, and blackberries are their main diet in coastal BC. They can consume 30,000 berries a day. They pick them with their sensitive lips and swallow them whole. The berries enter a two-part stomach, which grinds the pulp off the seed. The seeds pass through unbroken and are thus able to germinate. This is how they spread the seeds throughout their territory, making sure of future supply. After the berries run out and before the salmon spawning, there is little else for them to eat before they enter their dens in October so we see many black bears in our gardens in August and at the beginning of September.
What do you get when you eat blackberries? Bluetooth!
BLACKBERRY COFFEE CAKE RECIPE
- 1 kg blackberries
- 4 Tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Gently toss to coat berries with sugar/cinnamon mixture
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup soft butter
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 small lemon rind & juice
- 3 Tbsp coarse sugar (I use sugar in the raw)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Sift together flour, baking powder & soda, set aside
- In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar
- Add eggs one at the time and beat well
- Add sour cream, vanilla, lemon rind & juice and beat well
- Mix in flour mixture. If using blueberries you can mix them in, but other berries would bleed too much
- Pour half into a prepared pan (large rectangular) & top it with half the berry mixture
- Spread evenly; it’s ok if it gets mixed up
- Pour second half of dough and top with berries
- Spread berries evenly, slightly pressing into dough
- Sprinkle with coarse sugar and cinnamon mix
- Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until done. Do the toothpick test and check the bottom if using a glass dish. Cool on wire rack and serve at room temperature, but cold is pretty good as well.