Blackberries can be a bit of a challenge. The vines have thorns (unless you are lucky enough to find a thornless variety). But show up in long pants, long sleeved shirts and sneakers with socks and most of the problems will go away.
Be sure your kids eat some sun-warmed blackberries this summer. Depending on where you live, you may have access to a patch of wild blackberries, in a park, say, or in an alleyway. Avoid picking on main roads. Too much traffic leaves behind blech on the berries we don’t really want to be eating.
Blackberry season has begun. Picking stays good through August.
How to pick a good blackberry:
- Ripe blackberries are not shiny, but have gone past to a dull purple-black color. Stay away from anything raspberry colored; they’ll be super-pucker-crunchy-sour instead of oozy-melt-in-your-mouth-sweet.
- Ready blackberries want to be picked. Just a light pull will drop the berry, core and all, into your hand. If you bend the twig and the berry stays put, it’s not ready. Only pick ripe blackberries, they won’t get any riper once picked.
- Not too squishy. If they are already too soft to eat, leave them there.
- Refrigerate or freeze if you have no plans for them before bedtime.
4 things to do with the blackberries you’ve picked:
If you’ve consumed all the berries you possibly can, and there are still a few lef over, here are a few quick things to do.
1. Freeze ‘em. Blackberries only need a quick bath and drain. To keep them from squishing, freeze them in a single layer on a flat pan. When solid, seal in a zip-top bag.
2. Popsicles! Paper cups, popsicle sticks, vanilla yogurt, orange juice and blackberries. The kids can do this for themselves. For each cup of vanilla yogurt, stir in ½ cup orange juice, and as many blackberries as will fit. Spoon into the paper cups and pop in a stick. Place in the freezer until solid. Perfect for, “Mom, I’m hungry and it’s too hot!” Peel off the paper cups and enjoy.
3. Cook down some blackberries to make them versatile and store better. (The fancy word for this is “compote.”) Toss rinsed blackberries in a sauce pan. For each cup add 3 Tbs orange juice and 2 Tbs sugar. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is purple-y and thickened and makes you want to eat it up with a spoon. Freeze it in one cup amounts for later, or serve with something cakey or creamy right away.
4. Smoothies! Pop one cup blackberries (fresh or partly thawed), ½ cup yogurt and enough orange juice to make thing work into the blender for a spin. Fresh basil or mint or shiso makes a surprising, yummy addition if you have some lying around.
Also in season right now: blueberries. Best blueberry U-pick farms in the Seattle area.
Originally published on Aug. 5 2013.
Greta Hardin is author of “Cooking your Local Produce: A Cookbook for Tackling Farmers Markets, CSA Boxes, and Your Own Backyard.”