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VOL. 37 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 28, 2013

Blackberries – plump, juicy and delicious!

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My mom has been talking for the last few weeks about the blackberries she’s growing in her backyard.

It makes me envious enough that I just might start a few bushes next year. Either blackberries or blueberries. Both of them are some of my favorite fruits.

In the U.S., blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. Crops are ready at various times of the month, depending on where in the state you are located.

Anyway, I decided to write about the health benefits of blackberries, of which there are many.

The blackberry is a thorny, caning (meaning it grows in long canes) shrub, and the berries are rounded clusters sharing a common attachment to the stem. These grow in clusters that turn from light green to deep purple to black, ripening in mid to late summer into a wonderful, juicy, round berry – provided the birds don’t beat you to them.

Low-fat blackberries have many health benefits:

They are among the top-ranked antioxidant-rich fruits and contain high levels of fiber, manganese, copper and vitamin C.

With only 61 calories and two grams of protein per cup, blackberries are also a good source of vitamins A (as beta-carotene), B5, C, E, K and folate.

One cup of blackberries provides four percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and seven percent of the RDA of zinc.

A phytochemical in blackberries, cyandin-3-glucoside, might help fight cancer, as it has been shown to possess both chemo preventive and chemotherapeutic activity.

The lignans (phytoestrogens) in blackberries might help postmenopausal women survive breast cancer. Studies suggest those with a higher phytoestrogen intake have a higher breast cancer survival rate than those who have a lower intake.

Blackberries are considered an astringent because of their high tannin content. Tannins tighten tissue, lessen bleeding and help alleviate diarrhea and intestinal inflammation.

German health officials recommend blackberries for mild infections, including sore throats and mouth irritations, maybe because they are a natural source of salicylate, an active substance found in aspirin.

Storage

Blackberries are extremely perishable, turning soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours. Once home with the berries, check the fruit carefully. Immediately serve the soft, overripe berries and discard any smashed or moldy ones.

It’s best to spread the berries on a shallow plate and cover with paper towels, then with plastic wrap. They will keep for about two days.

Although blackberries are highly perishable when fresh, they freeze quite well. Place the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to a heavy plastic bag, seal it tight, pressing out all of the air, label and date. They will keep for six months.

Ultimate Blackberry Cobbler

Filling:

8 cups of blackberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of instant tapioca

2 tablespoons of lime juice

A pinch of salt

Topping:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 cup of shredded coconut

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 of teaspoon baking powder

1/4 of teaspoon salt

1 stick of cold, unsalted butter

1 egg

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl, tossing to blend; spoon into a two quart baking dish. In another bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients except the egg and, using your fingers, knead the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Blend in the egg, and then arrange it over the berry mixture, covering them evenly. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for about one hour, allowing the sauce to thicken.

Grilled Blackberry Chicken Salad

1/2 cup of raspberry or balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of sieved blackberry jam

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of sugar

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mixed salad greens

1 pint of blackberries

1 1/2 oz. of crumbled feta cheese

2/3 cup of chopped pecans

1/2 cup of snipped fresh chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine vinegar, jam, mustard and sugar, and then blend vigorously until smooth. Pour half of the dressing over chicken in a shallow dish. (Reserve the remaining dressing for the salad.) Turn the chicken to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Light an outdoor grill. Grill the chicken until done; transfer to a cutting board; let the chicken stand for five minutes before cutting it into thin slices. Mix the greens with the reserved dressing and divide it among the plates. Sprinkle with berries. Top with chicken, pecans, cheese, and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Blackberry Smoothie

2 cups of fresh or frozen blackberries

1 cup of plain fat-free yogurt

1 cup of apple juice

1/4 cup of honey

1 large ripe banana

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. If desired, strain the smoothie through a sieve; discard the seeds.

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