grow like weeds here in Virginia. Their vines are easy to find not only in the countryside but also along fences and in the backyards of older houses in the city. The trick is to get to the ripened fruit before the birds do.
Super foods come and go, but blackberries have got the goods to last. They're full of vitamins C and K, as well as manganese. Their dark color is an indication that each berry is bursting with antioxidants, and because of all of the little seeds, they're also packed full of fiber.
Mark Rieger, a former horticulture professor at the University of Georgia (now an associate dean at the University of Florida), has traveled around the world researching fruit crops. He wrote in an online guide that blackberries are native to Asia, Europe, and North and South America. They have been used in Europe for more than 2,000 years for eating and medicinal purposes. As an added bonus, using the prickly bushes as hedges helped keep out intruders. To read more, visit uga.edu/fruit.
Where they are
In season from the beginning of June until the end of August, blackberries are regulars at the farmers markets around town. When sourcing a regular supply of the berries, start with Amy Hicks of Amy's Garden (932-9221 or amysor ganicgarden.com) in Quinton and Anne Geyer of Agriberry Farm (agriberry.com) in Hanover County, which offers community-supported agriculture shares, but be forewarned — the winter storms wiped out a lot of the canes, so pick-your-own farms like the Ashland Berry Farm and the Chesterfield Berry Farm won't have any blackberries this year. You'll have to venture a little farther afield to the Westmoreland Berry Farm (another Geyer family business) at Oak Grove in the Northern Neck if you want to brave the brambles and bring fruit home.
Avalon's Blackberry Compote
Chef Ethan Vaughan serves a blackberry compote with grilled pork tenderloin and Hook's blue cheese at Avalon Restaurant & Bar (2619 W. Main St., 353-9709), but it's a wonderful accompaniment to any grilled meat in the summertime.
- 1 pint of blackberries, washed
- 1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 shot (1 1/2 tablespoons) of Stolichnaya Blakberi vodka
- A pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil, stirring. Then turn the heat down to a simmer. Reduce the mixture by a third, stirring periodically. Spoon it onto plates.