Blackberries: Tasty tips & phytochemicals

10 Aug 2023

Summer brings an abundance of blackberries. Look out for them in the wild growing in hedgerows or pick up a punnet from the shop. What do they contribute to our plates?

In a Nutshell

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Plant Tales

Blackberries Unmasked! Like raspberries and strawberries, blackberries are not true berries but aggregate fruits that consist of a number of smaller fruits. They are produced by plants in the genus Rubus of the rose family and ripen from green through red, to deep purple and finally black when ripe in late July.

Battling soil erosion: Blackberry bushes are an important part of a healthy forest because of their ability to thrive in infertile soils. Following a disturbance - think windstorm or harvest - they provide essential ecological services and can help prevent soil erosion.

Berry legends: According to UK folklore, blackberries should not be picked after Old Michaelmas Day in October, as they are believed to have been sullied by the Devil.

Foraging through time: Prior to domestication, blackberries were foraged by indigenous communities and mainly used medicinally. There are records of the root, leaves, stem, and fruits being used to treat a variety of ailments, such as diarrhoea, sore throats and wounds.

The modern blackberry: Since their commercial debut in Europe during the mid-sixteenth century, blackberries have evolved through breeding for optimised flavour, yield, storage and processing properties. 

 In the words of Margaret Atwood: “That’s good times: one little sweetness after another.”

Research Digest

These small and soft fruits provide compounds that can promote good health, especially:

  • Dietary fibre
  • Vitamins C and K, and manganese
  • Bioactive phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids

 Zoom in: Anthocyanins are particularly high in berries. They’re a group of naturally occurring pigments that are responsible for their red, purple and blue colours. Accumulating scientific evidence indicates their health-supporting potential.

Diversity check: Each berry type has a specific make-up of anthocyanins. Blackberries particularly contain cyanidin, while other berries contain a wide array of different compounds. By eating a variety of berries, you get a diverse range of phytochemicals, each with its own special power! 

As a whole food: Including blackberries in people’s diets was associated with increased fat oxidation during physical activity, improved insulin sensitivity and decreased total cholesterol, in two small trials. As a family, berries have been linked to diabetes preventioncardiovascular health and cognitive health.

Life Hacks: One portion is 1 handful or 9 to 10 blackberries. Mix up the types of berries you eat depending on what’s available to you. Cooking tips

Tasty Tips

Our favourite ways to enjoy blackberries

  • Salad: Add to mixed greens, shallots, feta, toasted nuts, quinoa or lentils and drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Salad dressing: Blend with a vinegar of your choice, olive oil, dijon mustard and salt. Drizzle over your favourite summer salads.
  • Sorbet: Blend and freeze with water, lemon juice, honey and a pinch of salt.
  • Lassi: Blend with yoghurt, a sweetener and lemon juice. Serve with ice cubes and a mint leaf.
  • Yoghurt parfait: Mash up some of the berries and layer with Greek yoghurt, toasted nuts, homemade granola and fresh mint.
  • Quinoa or millet breakfast bowl: Cook in water, milk and cinnamon. Top with toasted nuts, seeds and almond butter.
  • Lemonade or infused water: Blend with lemon juice, mint leaves and water. Strain and serve with ice cubes and lemon slices.

Recipes to try


Human studies: Quesada-Morúa et al. 2020 – Solverson et al. Nutrients. 2018 – Guo et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 – Luís et al. Food & function. 2018 – Bonyadi et al. Sci Rep. 2022

History & compounds: Schulz et al. Food Bioscience. 2019 – Toshima et al. 2021 – woodland trust – Britannica



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