Those awful, wonderful, nourishing weeds: Blackberries

In the late 1980's I finished my graduate work, and my first professional position as a researcher in up state New York. I had applied and been accepted to the Peace Corps in West Africa and needed to take my worldly possessions and my beloved dog for safe keeping in Anchorage Alaska with my folks. A good friend and I loaded up the car and drove from upstate New York across this great big and diverse country of ours west. We'd planned on stopping at my travel companion's friends in Salem, Oregon before taking the ferry along Southeast Alaska and then driving up the Yukon to Anchorage. The trip was long at times but the geography of the country was fascinating.

I hadn't spent much time in the Pacific Northwest, and wasn't that much interested. Never the less what was the most strikingly beautiful to me was the way the coast met the mountains in places, the smell of the Pacific sea and the sweet scent of blackberries.

We stopped in Oregon for about three days. While my friend visited with her old colleague, I set out to seek some much needed alone time on a balmy, hot day near the end of summer. Not far from the home where we were staying there was a very inviting trail into a temperate forest which the Pacific Northwest in known for. At the time I did acutely noticed that the air seemed sweet, and heavily saturated with berry scent. As I continued hiking on about 0.25 of a mile my eyes drew on what seemed like hundreds of blackberries. While I knew what they were, I was baffled that I had discovered them. I alone, I thought in that moment, had discovered a treasure. I stood there and started eating still baffled that no one else had discovered this 'unique' patch, these delicacies. After feasting for awhile on the warm, buttery, I jogged back to the house to share my discovery. Our host let me put me straight in the kindest way -- blackberries are ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and some would call them weeds.

Because of their ubiquity, many people in the PNW tend to overlook and dismiss their use. This fruit is truly in most people's backyards, or parks or somewhere very close for foraging. Blackberries contain a good amount of Vitamin C, and anti oxidants, both important in remediating or preventing stress related processes, as well as helping to decrease or prevent scarring. Vitamin C is also well known for its immune stimulating capabilities.

They also contain a good amount of fiber which is helpful because while blackberries are sweet the fiber helps to prevent unwanted insulin spikes. Blackberries also contain good levels of copper, potassium and magnesium which are essential in building red blood cells.

During foraging our meal of clams and cabbage, we also collected a half gallon of blackberries in about 15 to 20 minutes. I used them for making a blackberry crisp. I'll be posting a recipe soon.