I recall this year that blackberry winter occurred in March! No wonder the blackberries are a bit early this year.


I recall this year that blackberry winter occurred in March! No wonder the blackberries are a bit early this year. We picked many of the different cultivars in our blackberry trial this first week of June. The blackberry cultivar/selection trial at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station at Mountain Grove include the cultivars Apache, Arapaho, Chester, Chickasaw, Kiowa, Natchez, Navaho, Ouachita, Prime-Jim, Prime-Jan, Prime-Ark 45, Loch Ness and Triple Crown as well as the selections APF-40 and A-2362 T from the Arkansas Blackberry breeding program. Dr. Martin Kaps directs the blackberry cultivars trial for Missouri State. Cultivars are named choices from breeding programs that have exhibited certain qualities desired by the plant breeders. Desirable qualities might include disease resistance, specific ripening time, high yields, or large berries. The numbered selections are sent out to area field station for further testing after showing promise. Once the numbered selections have been trialed at several locations, they may or may not be released as a named cultivar. Now is the time to look for fresh Missouri blackberries at the farmers’ markets, U-pick and retail grocery stores that feature local foods. If you pick-your-own, select berries that are uniform and plump. Just because a blackberry is black doesn’t mean it is ripe. Berries from wild and thorny cultivars will be glossy black when ripe, while berries from thornless cultivars should be dull black. The best way to tell is to pick and taste so you can calibrate your eye to choose only ripe, sweet fruit. Once you have harvested your berries, sort through them to remove soft berries and any debris or insects. Soft berries should be used as soon as possible as they may invite rot. It is best to store blackberries uncovered in a shallow container where they will last in the refrigerator for a few days. Do not wash your harvested blackberries until you are just about to use them. Place them in water and lift out gently. Remove any stems, drain and dry by placing on a layer of paper towels. Blackberries are not only delicious fresh or baked into a cobbler, they are good for you too. Blackberries are rich in vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are reported to help prevent cancer and heart disease. They are low in fat and high in fiber. One cup of unsweetened blackberries have only 75 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrate, 282 milligrams of potassium, 30 milligrams of Vitamin C, less than one gram of fat, less than 1 gram of protein, no sodium and 6 grams of fiber. Blackberries are a bit early this year – so we get an early treat. Blackberries usually ripen in June and July in southern Missouri. You had better start scouting for them now.