To the younger generation, the word ‘blackberry’ probably only brings to mind a variety of gadgets, but to those who remember carefree, barefoot summers with no mobile phone in sight or at hand, the blackberry is first and foremost that small, ripe, juicy fruit that saw us grabbing handfuls of it off shrubs and going home happily with black smudges on our faces and shirts.
Evidence of blackberry consumption may be traced all the way back to the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago. The ancient Romans used blackberries medicinally and Native Americans used them not only as a food source but also medicinally and to dye animal skins.
The ancient Greek physician Galen prescribed a decoction of blackberries for ailments, and Palladius writes of a recipe for blackberry syrup made with two parts juice to one part honey. Ancient Greeks also used blackberries to treat symptoms of gout, leading it to be called “goutberry” well into the 18th century. Historically, blackberries – or brambles as they are sometimes called – have also been used to make wine and cordials.
Although nowadays blackberries are primarily used to make sweets such as pies or preserves, they are known to be very beneficial to health. Having one of the highest antioxidant content of all fruits, blackberries are good for lowering cholesterol levels, support oral health, strengthen bones, regenerate the skin and aid the digestive system.
Worldwide, Mexico is the leading producer of blackberries, with nearly the entire crop being produced for export into the off-season fresh markets in North America and Europe.