Blackcaps: The King of Berries

Written by Guest Blogger, Langley Salyers

In North America, one berry has proven superior to all of its berry counterparts; this is the black raspberry, affectionately known as the “blackcap.” The blackcap has high antioxidants as well as deep coloring, allowing it to be used in a variety of health and healing agents, candy flavorings, and dyes! In fact, black raspberries were used for the original USDA meat stamp! The great functions of the blackcap don’t stop here though. Stay tuned to hear all about ice cream, candy, and cancer prevention… it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Black raspberry ripening in the summer sun. Photo courtesy of Willis Orchards.

Black raspberry ripening in the summer sun. Photo courtesy of Willis Orchards.

The black raspberry, formally known as Rubus sp, is a member of the Rosaceae family that thrives in eastern North America as well as other parts of the world where it is considered a subshrub, a small shrub or woody plant. The peak season for harvesting black raspberries usually ranges from the beginning to end of July. However, they are sometimes hard to differentiate from other berries in the wild. Black Raspberries have compound leaves with 3 to 5 leaflets, and these leaflets have jagged edges, which is termed “serrated.” These leaves closely resemble the leaves of blackberries, but if you view the underside, black raspberry leaves are much lighter, appearing almost white! Looking at the stem of the plant, you may also take note that it is glaucous, meaning white, as well. Black raspberry stems are round, almost circular. A last characteristic for proper identification is to pull off a ripened berry. The berries from a black raspberry plant will have an indentation on the side of the berry that was attached to the plant. The berries are best to eat when they are nearly black in color, hence their name! 

Perhaps the most intriguing element of the black raspberry is its potential to prevent cancer, but the health benefits don’t stop there! In a study conducted on Oregon black raspberries, the berries displayed an incredibly high antioxidant level, higher than that of any other berry viewed in the study including boysenberries, red raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Antioxident level, provides a measurement of the substance’s ability to absorb free radicals of oxygen. Free radicals have been shown to damage DNA, cause changes at a cellular level, and cause premature mental aging. To combat all of these things, High antioxidant foods combat these things by preventing cancer, heart disease, stroke, and maybe even Alzheimer’s! On top of all those perks, black raspberries also contain relatively high values of anthocyanins when compared to other berries. Anthocyanins may function as anti-inflammatories and serve to protect our vascular system, as well as improve vision, cardiovascular health, memory retention, and a reduced hypertension risk.

If all of these great health benefits aren’t enough to convince you to go berry picking right now, maybe all of the potential food options can send you running. Blackberries are used as a natural flavoring for ice cream, candy, cakes, jam, pastries, and many wines! Some people even use them for pancakes, sauces and muffins.

With all that said, I’m sure you’re itching to have the royal black raspberry tea party with this King of Berries. I can promise you this: these delicious black raspberries will be eaten long before they’ll have a chance to be “throne” out!

-Langley Salyers

Works Cited

Cover Photo courtesy of Willis Orchards

http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/black_raspberry_facts.htm

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=RUOC

http://identifythatplant.com/blackberry-or-black-raspberry/

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/natives/msg0622212210738.html?10

http://www.raspberry-depot.com/black-raspberry-recipes.html