While there are a ton of different varieties out there, you’re not likely to be able to tell the difference, says Debby Wechsler, executive secretary of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association. Differences in varietals have to do with growing conditions in different regions. “If you’re at the farmers market, it’s always fun to ask what they grow,” she says.
A single blackberry is actually a cluster of fruits called a drupelet—kind of like a teeny bunch of grapes. That means each little nub has its own seed—aka more nutritional benefits like fiber. “Packed with fiber (about 20 percent of your daily value per cup) and around 60 calories per cup, blackberries are a great snack,” says Chef Jess Swift, a chef and registered dietician. “They are also packed with antioxidants called flavonoids, that have been known to combat various cancers, coronary disease, and may even help with dementia and Alzheimer’s.” Like strawberries, they're also relatively low in sugar with about five grams of it per cup.
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Color isn’t the best indicator of ripeness with this fruit, says Wechsler. While berries typically range from a dark blueish-purple to inky black, the ripest ones aren’t shiny (those tend to be more tart). “You want ones where the color has started to dull down because those are the ripest and sweetest,” she says. Aside from the sheen, look for firm berries. “You don’t want ones that are soft or mushy or leaking juice,” Wechsler says.
Don’t rinse them when you get home—keep your berries away from water until you’re ready to eat, says Frances Dillard, director of marketing and global brand lead at Driscoll’s. Just pop them in the fridge to keep them fresh. If you want to make your blackberries last a little longer, head to the freezer. “If you’re freezing blackberries, gently wash and dry and place over sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet,” says Dillard. “Remove the berries from the baking sheet as soon as they’re frozen and pack into a freezer safe container.”
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Blackberries are awesome enjoyed on their own. “Blackberries are wonderfully sweet, not too tart, incredibly juicy, and amazingly aromatic,” says Dillard. “In other words, perfect.” Once you’re ready to bite into your blackberries, let them warm up a bit, which will help enhance their natural flavors. You can also take them straight out of the freezer and toss into pancakes, muffins or smoothies, says Wechsler. “You might also enjoy eating them half frozen.”
Blackberries are also well suited to some great cocktail and kitchen creations. First, there are the classics. “Blackberries have a huge nostalgia quotient,” says Wechsler. “Everybody thinks of their grandmother’s blackberry cobbler or pie. The flavors really come out when they’re cooked like that.” You can also get creative. Muddle them for a sweet blackberry mojito or add them to a salad for an alternative summery topper. Wechsler says they also make a killer sweet-meets-savory sauce for your summer grilling recipes. Blackberry glazed beef? Yes, please.