Blackberry

Blackberry is a well-known and widely consumed fruit that boasts medicinal properties as well as versatile culinary applications.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Blackberry
  • Scientific nameRubus fruticosus
  • Main producer(s)Mexico
  • Main Economic UseCulinary
Blackberry

Blackberry is an herb so ancient – over 30 million years old – that it is unclear whether it originated in Asia, Europe, North America, or South America. Blackberries have been valued over time for both their culinary and medicinal properties. Ancient Greeks used the fruit to remedy gout, while Romans favored the leaves to treat various ailments. Egyptians used the berries as hair dye due to the effectiveness of their dark color. Native Americans also used them for food, medicine, to make twine, and to dye animal skins. Because blackberries grow wild throughout the world, they have retained their popularity in many different cultures.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAnti-inflammatory, Antioxidant
  • Key constituentsAnthocyanins, ellagic acid
  • Ways to useCapsules, Food
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe
Blackberry

Health Benefits of Blackberry

Because blackberry is more widely used as a food product, it has not been studied clinically. Nonetheless, its constituents and properties suggest the following potential medicinal uses:

  • Preventing neurodegenerative diseases
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Stopping diarrhea
  • Managing type 2 diabetes

How It Works

Blackberry contains beneficial phytocompounds, including the flavonoid anthocyanin and the phenol ellagic acid. The anthocyanin is what gives the fruit its dark shade. It also has several essential micronutrients, namely vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B3 (niacin), and manganese. The berries are a good source of dietary fiber.

Because these compounds reduce reactive oxygen species present in cells, it is thought that blackberry has neuroprotective effects. In addition, its tannins are astringent.

Blueberry and carambola also possess antioxidant properties, whereas tomato and pineapple provide similar anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Side Effects of Blackberry

Blackberry is considered generally safe for consumption; however, it may trigger unfavorable reactions in people allergic to Rosaceae species, causing anaphylaxis in rare cases. Overconsumption of blackberry may cause stomach discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.

Cautions

While in dietary amounts the tannins in blackberry are considered harmless, people with a history of degenerative diseases, such as cancer, as well as the ones with chronic gastrointestinal conditions, should seek the advise of a health care professional before consuming the leaves and roots of blackberry in medicinal doses.

Blackberry fruits are considered safe for everyone to consume; however, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, as well as children under two years old should avoid blackberry leaf tea.

How to Consume Blackberry

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesFlavoring, Coloring, Condiment, Beverage
  • TasteSweet, Tart

For centuries, blackberries have been valued by many different cultures as a way to enhance the flavor and smell of all types of meals. However, for medicinal purposes, blackberries can be taken as a supplement in more concentrated forms.

Supplements

Main preparations: Capsules, powder, liquid extract

Capsules. The antioxidant power of blackberries can be obtained in standardized, daily doses.

Powder. This is popular form of consumption, with a longer shelf-life, and can be mixed with shakes and other beverages.

Liquid extract. This preparation concentrates the natural properties of the herb. Few daily drops diluted in a glass of water can bring all the benefits of blackberries.

Food

Main preparations: Raw, cooked

Although it is widely used as an ingredient in many cooked meals, blackberries are also popularly consumed raw. They can be used as a garnish or an addition to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Blackberries are commonly used in jams, pies, and desserts due to their natural sweetness; however, they are also used to flavor alcoholic beverages, such as wine and brandy.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets

Fresh blackberry is available year round in most food markets. Although blackberry is mostly bought fresh, other forms are also available, such as frozen berries and supplements.

Raw Blackberry

Raw blackberries are easy to find in most grocery stores or local markets around the world. Blackberry is imported from Mexico to the United States and Europe during the off-season, so it remains available all through the year. Though it is mostly purchased in this form, it is also sold in large quantities as jam or juice.

Blackberry Supplements

Blackberry supplements are mainly found in specialized health stores. In addition, there is a wide variety of blackberry supplement choices available through online retailers.

Blackberry supplements are made from the fruit and leaves of the blackberry plant most commonly. However, they can also be found made with the juice of the fruit. Because of the different ways in which the supplements can be produced, it is important to research the content of any supplement. It is also a good idea to consult a medical expert before deciding to take blackberry supplements.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Harvested partsLeaves, Fruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLight (sandy)
  • Soil pH5.6 – 6.0 (Moderately acidic), 6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • Plant spacing average3 m (9.84 ft)
  • Potential diseasesViruses

Blackberry is very adaptable to its surroundings, and grows wild on many continents throughout the world. In fact, in some regions, it is even considered a weed. However, when it comes to commercial cultivars, it is important to consider the specific type of blackberry being grown.

Growing Guidelines

  • Erect blackberry shrubs require less spacing (as little as 10 feet, or about 3 m, between each shrub) but fairly regular formation pruning; semi-erect and trailing cultivars will require 16 - 26 feet (approx. 5 - 8 m) between each plant in addition to training to conduct growth.

  • In order for blackberry to reach its maximum potential, it should be planted in sandy, acidic soil in a spot which is exposed to full sun.

  • It is preferable for the soil to have a pH of 5.5 - 7.0. Deep watering will prevent soil from drying out.

  • Blackberries prefer warm, temperate climates and are vulnerable to frosts.

  • They are also quite vulnerable to viral infestations, so it's strongly encouraged to keep blackberry plantations far away from wild blackberry shrubs.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesDye

Plant Biology

The blackberry fruit has a torus that stays with the fruit, which is what differentiates it from raspberries and brambles, relatives in the same genus. The fruit is not a true berry; it is instead an aggregated fruit. The leaves are three or five compound oval leaflets, and the white or pink flowers of the plant are 0.75 - 1.2 inches (2 - 3 cm) in diameter.

  • Classification

    Blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family, which contains about 2,830 species spread out over 95 genera. Other well-known members of the Rosaceae family are almond (Prunus dulcis), apple (Malus domestica), pear (Pyrus communis), prune (Prunus domestica), and strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa).

    Blackberry is also a member of the genus Rubus, which comprises a wide variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. It includes 12 recognized subgenera, many of which have hundreds of species. Raspberry (R. idaeus), and blackberry (R.eubatus), are among the most popular species of Rubus cultivated for their edible berries. On the other hand, R. coreanus and R. hirsutus are mostly used in Chinese traditional medicine, while R. ursinos has been traditionally consumed by Native Americans to treat swellings and sores. 
  • Varieties and Cultivars of Blackberry

    For millennia, blackberry has grown wild on the Earth and dozens of varieties have appeared naturally. As a result, there are many types of blackberries nowadays.

    Because of the blackberry's ability to crossbreed with ease, there are numerous cultivars that have been created and introduced for commercial and amateur cultivation, both in Europe and in the United States, such as the long-standing 'Brazos' and 'Cherokee', or the newer 'Black Satin' variety. Prickle-free cultivars, which facilitate processing of the fruit, have been developed throughout the world, including the 'Black Diamond' and 'Nightfall' cultivars.

    Popularly consumed hybrids of raspberry and blackberry are 'loganberry', 'boysenberry', and 'tayberry.'

Economic Data

Mexico is currently the biggest producer of blackberries, with most of their produce being exported to North America and Europe during the off-season. Oregon is the biggest blackberry-producing state in the United States, with over 56.1 million pounds (25.4 million kg) of blackberries cultivated over 7,000 acres in 2009. The United Kingdom, Chile, and New Zealand are also producers. Blackberries crossbreed with each other easily, and so many have been artificially cultivated to increase their yield and value.

Other Uses

The blackberry fruit, as well as other parts of the plant, have additional uses beyond their culinary and medicinal ones. Historically, the berries have been used as a dye for both hair and materials. The blackberry vines and twigs were historically used to make twine. The juice of the berry is also added to some cosmetics for color or aroma.

Bibliography