Right now, along trails, sidewalks, and woods, the wild blackberries are beginning to ripen. Wild blackberries are native to the eastern and western coasts of North America. Let's explore how wild blackberries impact soil health, our health, and delicious ways to prepare them.
Native plants are incredibly beneficial to the environment. According to the Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, blackberries “shade the soil," which reduces ground temperatures and increases water for other plants. By shading the soil, blackberries also "capture nutrients from decaying leaf litter, recycle those nutrients back to the site, protect plants from browsing, rebuild leaf litter, and suppress ferns." Blackberries are also "important sources of soft mast or forest food for songbirds and small mammals.”
Not only are they good for the environment, but they have health benefits. Blackberries contain minerals like vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and fiber. You can eat them fresh, bake them, or turn them into jam!
When cleaning the berries, you can soak them in lemon water to kill the bugs and critters that might also be interested in your berries.
Find out more about the benefits of blackberries and find recipes for Blackberry Breakfast Bars and Blackberry Muffins on the Virginia Cooperative Extension site.
Learn more about the botany of blackberries and best soil management practices for growing them on the Piedmont Master Gardener site.
Below is a recipe for Marilyn Batali's Blackberry Pie by Food & Wine
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
5 tablespoons ice water
2 pints blackberries (1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the ice water and stir with a fork until the dough is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Divide in half; flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie plate. Roll out the remaining dough to an 11-inch round.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir the blackberries with the sugar, flour and lemon juice, lightly mashing a few berries; scrape into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle the butter cubes on top.
Brush the overhanging pastry with water and carefully set the top crust over the berry filling. Press the edges of the dough together and trim the overhang to 1 inch. Fold the edge under itself and crimp decoratively. Cut 4 slits in the top crust.
Bake the pie in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the bottom crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If necessary, cover the edge with foil for the last few minutes of baking. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.
About the Blog
Join the movement! 4 The Soil is a campaign by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.