Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries

Of all the fruits in the area the blackberry is the most common I shouldn't have to tell you how to find it or what it looks like if you have lived here for any length of time. But I will anyway. Blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries (also cloudberries, dewberries and stone brambles which I have not seen here) are rubus fruits each of the little sections on the berry is called a drupe. They are also know as seedy aggregates and all of the know types of seedy aggregates are non-poisonous. So if it has drupes or crowns the berry is edible, easy hun? An easy way to spot blackberries from your car is look for red stems with bright green leaves on them lopping and twining around each other and everything else. They love drainage ditches, culverts, over grown backyards, abandoned property, disturbed soil (like where they say they are going to build a shopping center then they plow everything and then it sits there in probate *hint hint Mobileians*), and the edge of the woods. Blackberries (and most fruits) need a lot of sun so you aren't going to find them in deep woods. They do especially love clearings that are slightly over grown with tall slash pines ever so often. They must like the same soil conditions. 

Raspberries are a bit different I have not seen an wild but I have seen patches in abandoned backyards I don't think they like it in the deep south quite as much as other berries. Most that I have seen have green stems and jagged green leaves that look similar to that of blackberries. With very very similar flowers. 

Mulberries are a little harder to get to since they grow in trees... but never fear the branches are very supple and take well to being bent down with a hook on a stick, which means you probably do not want to climb this tree! They have almost heart shaped leaves with saw toothed edges and they get long droopy pollen stalks in the spring and short strange looking flower that look much like the berry with white fuzzy curled fingers sticking out all over it. The tree has a smoothish bark with a vertical pattern. That can be scratched with you thumb nail. There is an old saying for berries that goes 
"white and yellow kill a fellow,
 purple and blue, good for you 
Red... could be good, could be dead. "
And mostly this is true but when it comes to maturing berries this is not true. Mulberries start out white then turn red and if you have a long mulberry or black mulberry (the most common variety in the south) they turn black. But as I just told you aggregate berries are all non-poisonous so that is a moot point anyway.  

Another awesome thing is that all three varieties freeze well and I think they taste great straight from the freezer on a hot day. They also work great for pies, jams/jellies, cobblers (my favorite), and gelato. And never forget one of the best drinks of the summer black berry tea! The tart flavor of blackberries and raspberries compliments sweet desserts such as cheesecake and mousse.  While the sometimes overly sweet flavor of mulberries needs to be tempered with tartness like citrus fruits or plain Jane pound cake. 


Lovely plate of a raspberry.
 the parts of a raspberry are strikingly
similar to those of a blackberry. 


Black raspberry


Diagram of a mulberry showing its various parts.
Note the leaf shape and how the berries grow from the branch

Ripe black mulberries, these have been cleaned sometimes they look a bit hairy.


Single perfect ripe blackberry. 
Blackberry canes, note the red canes and how it loops on itself .

Blackberry flower, if you find these make a note in your foraging journal
where they were so you can go back when the fruits come on. 

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