Blackberry: from prehistory to the modern age
The blackberry, like its close cousin the raspberry, is of the Rubus genus of the Rosacea family. It is a fruit qualified as complex because it is made up of several drupes (or small berries) that are closely connected. When ripe, it is the darkest of all berries, whence its name in English. Wild blackberries have been around for several millenia years since archeologists found traces of the fruit in the remains of the Haraldskær (or Haraldskjaer) Woman, extraordinarily preserved in the Jutland bogs of Northern Denmark for over 2,500 years. Over time, the blackberry has greatly evolved and there are today hundreds of varieties, both wild, cultivated and hybrid, to be found on all continents. This ranges from the berries that families traditionally go picking at the end of the summer in the countryside, a fun activity that reminds of our hunter-gatherer past, to what are known as cultivars (natural plants that have been developed through selection) which can grow as high as 15 meters (50 feet) in the highlands of The Caucasus. The blackberry continues to be developed in many countries, to increase its yield, but also to develop new varieties that are easy to process and, of course, tastier, offering its unique sweet and sour balance and its very fragrant notes for a great many uses in sweet and savory recipes. Furthermore, the nutritional benefits of its fruit and leaves are increasingly being recognized and appreciated for their high-fiber content, their vitamins, antioxidants and even their analgesic virtues because of the presence of salicylic acid, the natural base for Aspirin!