We're nearing the peak of blackberry season here in Seattle. The Northwest is justly famous for its blackberries. For whatever reasons having to do with climate and temperament, the non-native Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) thrives in these parts, to the point of being an OBnoxious weed. Really, the only way you can keep it down is by running your own herd of goats. They take over abandoned lots, park margins, unkempt backyards, and just about any other nook and cranny where they can gain a foothold and spread their thorny canes.
But let's look at the good side. Blackberries are delicious. They effortlessly combine that sought-after one-two punch of pucker and sweet that is the holy grail for many a dessert chef. Discerning palates pay nearly as much for a carton of blackberries in season as the more delicate and finicky raspberry—yet unlike raspberries, blackberries are all over the city, free for the taking.
I'm continually amazed at how under-utilized this resource is. People, we're famous for our blackberries! Go get some. I usually combine blackberry picking with a swim in Lake Washington. They're at their sweetest and juiciest just as the region is at its hottest. Driving around the city, I see them pretty much everywhere. It's not like you have to travel to some distant neighborhood park or outer suburb to find them.
This is an easy recipe originally written for peaches. Use whatever fruit you want. The baking time seems long, but you want to make sure you get that crispy edge. Oven temps vary, so keep an eye on the topping; when it's nicely browned it's done.
4-5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. Layer bottom evenly with berries.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or knife. Sprinkle over berries.
3. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy on top, about 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
By the way, Himalayan blackberries are available through much of North America, but if you happen to live in the Pacific Northwest, treat yourself to our native species, the trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus). Unlike it's argumentative cousin, the trailing blackberry doesn't grow from thick canes or pack such vicious thorns. You'll find it creeping along the ground in less disturbed areas where the non-native species hasn't had a chance to out-compete it. The fruit, many berry connoisseurs would say, is even more flavorful than the Himalayan, though it takes more work to gather a meal as they're not so plentiful.
In any case, blackberries of all species make a perfect summertime dessert on a hot evening. Don't forget the ice cream.