Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good 'n' Plenty ('n' FREE)

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.

Blackberry Crumble

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm in the Puget Sound and blackberries are NOT in season until late summer/early fall (never have been earlier). How on earth do you have blackberries already???

Langdon Cook said...

Blackberries are available in fall, yes, but they're at their best during the hottest days of summer. My first collecting missions are almost always end of July/beginning of August. Most years mid-August in my opinion is the peak for flavor (and often production). Remember, berries will keep ripening on the vine, but the first flush is worth catching.

Ra said...

I just picked a bunch of blackberries right outside my door in Seattle. Unfortunately, quite a few of them were wormy!

Langdon Cook said...

Oh, and to answer Anonymous's question, I do most of my picking for Himalayas in the Mt. Baker & Seward Park 'hoods of Seattle, but in the last 24 hrs I've spied ripe patches in W. Seattle, Beacon Hill, and Wallingford. Those closer to salt water are still green, mostly. Look for patches in sunny spots & near fresh water. Bottom line: blackberries *are* in season.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Lucky you to live near a place where you can collect wild blackberries. That dessert looks scrumptious.

Kelli Russell Agodon - Book of Kells said...

I've collected them near PLU the first week and second week of August and they are perfect.

Thanks for the recipe. I'm going to try it.

I also make a quick easy Blackberry Cobbler each August--


2 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
2 c. blackberries
2 c. boiling water

Cream 1 cup sugar and butter then add flour, baking powder, salt and milk. Mix well and pour into 12 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Pour the blackberries over batter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Pour the boiling water over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold. May be served with cream, ice cream, or whipped cream.

(Actually, I serve mine with whipped cream AND vanilla ice cream).

I also have a rockin' Apple Brown Betty recipe I make when the apples are ready. It's the absolute taste of fall.

Tomilyn said...

I collect them right by Magnuson park, and will try your cobbler hopefully soon. I made some granita with them and it was just plain tasty, as well as eating them fresh off the vine.

Leciawp said...

Oodles of blackberries where I live in Magnolia, but they're not ready yet (though I've been out of town all week - maybe they are now). I'll try this when they are. Do you have a good blackberry jam recipe? I'd love to make some this year. Last month I made strawberry (freezer) jam for the first time; so satisfying to do with the kids and so delicious!

Jenny said...

I live in the southern Willamette Valley in Oregon. Our blackberries are just ripening. We have about a 200 foot long area at the back of our property full of the H. blackberries, 3 raspberry plants and 2 other kinds we aren't sure about. Last Sunday there were only enough ripe berries to add to the fruit salad or maybe garnish a dark chocolate cake. I think with this heatwave, when I check tomorrow, there might be enough for cobbler or crisp (I use the cobbler method/recipe that Kells posted - great with any fruit but, really, apricots are the best with blackberries a real close second).
So glad I read your blog today. I've been hiding in the house or at the creek all week. I forgot all about keeping an eye on the "crop".

Jennifer said...

We have such an abundance of blackberries here to pick freely, but the weather this year has produced the fondest of crops. This crumble looks SO good!!!

Langdon Cook said...

Ciao Chow Linda - We are lucky on the blackberry front here in the PNW, but you must have some sort of berry to drool over too...

Kells - Thanks for the recipe, will check it out. If you're into butter worship, here's another easy cobbler from last year's blackberry crop.

Tomilyn - Thanks for stopping by. I bet Magnuson is loaded with berries. Next for us is blackberry wine!

A Day That Is Dessert - Thanks for the visit. Yeah, seems like those patches closer to salt water are greener. Do you get morning fogs? We made blackberry jam a few years ago--I think we used a simple recipe out of "Putting Foods By." Kids loved it.

Jenny - Yes, check the crop! Blackberries love this hot weather. They get plump & sweet during the dog days.

Jennifer - Indeed, heat waves are good for blackberries if not humans. But I don't want to complain. We pine for sun 10 months out of the year in Seattle. Turns out we got it in spades this year.

Trout Caviar said...

Lang, I'm sure your blackberries are even more prolific than ours, but they thrive on our land in Wisconsin, too. Ours are nowhere near ripe, we're just getting to the end of the raspberries. I just put a recipe for Gooseberry and Raspberry Fool (berry puree and whipped cream) up on Trout Caviar. It would be great with blackberries, too.

Have you ever made tea from blackberry leaves?

Cheers~ Brett

Anonymous said...

Here in Connecticut, we are just getting the blackberries started. The awfully wet weather was very bad for black raspberries, many molded on the canes. Wineberries are at peak now, so we pick them and throw in a few blackberries as we come across them. Mostly the blackberries come in better in August.

We refer to the trailing blackberries as dewberries here, and those are also ready now.
The 3 Foragers from

test it comm said...

That blackberry crumble looks so good with the melting ice cream on top!

dp said...

I've been told blackberries are all over here in PDX too, but I am probably the only one who is not able to find them!

Sadly, I just pay for them, which I don't really mind since they are so good. Although free would be better.

Mishqueen said...

The blackberries are coming early this year because of our record heat lately. Bring it on!!

Unknown said...

I remember an old commercial variety which my great uncle and grandfather both grew, called the Cascade Berry. It was created from the tiny, native wild blackberry and larger berries (loganberry?).
I lost the cultivar some years ago and I wonder if it's still out there...

drfugawe said...

Best stuff I ever made with them was Blackberry Catchup - amazing stuff, and no seeds!

Leciawp said...

We do get a lot of morning fog. Blackberries are now ready; picked a bunch yesterday and today and made jam tonight. (photos of some picking yesterday are on my site today)