Blackberries have been eaten by humans over thousands of years. Blackberry is the edible fruit produced by the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family of plants. To me blackberries are a gift from nature that I enjoy picking and eating around Arnavutköy in Istanbul. Finding wild blackberries not in some remote area, a rural backdrop or a village garden, but in a metropolis of all places renders half the fun. Road side blackberries may have incorporated toxins from car emissions but we only manage to gather a handful of them anyway due to the fact that not all of them grow to their full potential.
Henri picking blackberries in Arnavutköy
Bees pollinate the blackberry flowers and the smallest change in conditions such as a rainy or a too hot day may hinder their daily work, thus reducing the quality of the fruit. Lack of nutrient reserves in the roots of the plants or an infection with a virus can lead to incomplete drupelet development also.
The species of the genus Rubus are rapid growing deciduous shrubs growing to 3 m. They flower from May to September, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are produced on short racemes and each flower is about 2-3 cm in diameter with five white or pale pink petals.
The usually black fruit of the blackberry is not a true berry in botanical terms but an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets. The drupelets only develop around ovules that are fertilized by the male gamete. Blackberry flowers are hermaphrodites: A single flower contains both male and female parts. Bees feeding on the flower's nectar can transfer pollen which contains sperm cells from one flower to another whereby numerous ovaries are fertilized. Embryos are formed within seeds.
Blackberries also have the ability to bypass fertilization by developing seeds asexually in the ovaries, without any help from pollen. This is called apomixis.
The blackberry is a widespread shrub throughout the world. Bramble, meaning impenetrable scrub, was traditionally used to describe the blackberry shrub. Blackberry shrubs grow in woods, scrubs, hillsides and hedgegrows. They take over wasteland, ditches and vacant lots. Unmanaged plants form a tangle of arching stems and the branches root from node tips when they reach the ground. Nodes are the points on a stem where buds, leaves and branching twigs originate.
‘Blackberries are red when they are green’ is a British expression.
In addition to the shrubs being very dense, the first and second year shoots have numerous short and curved prickles. This makes it very difficult to reach for the ripe fruit.
I am learning that there are very many species of blackberries and they can easily hybridize. There are many cultivars with more than one species in their ancestry. Raspberries are their relatives and the distinguishing characteristic is that when picking a blackberry fruit the torus (the receptacle) stays with the fruit and with a raspberry the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit.
In the past decade or so, Mexico has become the leading commercial producer of blackberries for world markets. Blackberries are very nutritious. To really enjoy them you must love their sour taste though.
Blackberries from Mexico