A popular commercial crop, blackberries are grown on either vines or bushes. Native growth occurs across the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Blackberry fruits are used in jams, jellies, pies, liqueurs, juices and wines. Berries ripen in June and July. The blackberry is a member of the 'Rosaceae' family just like the rose bush.
Blackberries were once brewed in teas to be used for the treatment of dysentery and gout. Currently there are several studies going on to study using blackberries as an alternative medical treatment. Dr. Richard Beliveau, who specializes in cancer prevention and treatment at the University of Quebec in Montreal, believes that the polyphenols (ellagic acid and delphinidin) contained within blackberries can stop the formation of new blood vessels in tumors of the breast, colon and mouth.
Also, the United States Department Of Agriculture collaborated with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study a compound found in blackberries called cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G), which appears to inhibit tumor growth in some animal test subjects.
Blackberries are also being studied in a clinical trial being headed up by the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky.The study is researching the effects of blackberries and other berries on slowing non-small cell lung cancer tumour growth. The study is set to conclude its research in 2010. Since these studies are inconclusive, do not use blackberries to treat any medical condition without first consulting a physician.
Blackberries prefer to be grown in full sunlight conditions. The bushes and vines must be planted in well-drained soil to thrive. Blackberries cannot withstand water-logged roots; a few days of them will result in the bush's death.
Many commercial farms are open to the public in June and July. The farms allow people to handpick blackberries for personal use for a small fee. Other commercial farms utilize large machines to shake the bushes mechanically so the berries fall to the ground and can be gathered up.
Most blackberry bushes and vines will live 15 to 20 years. Berry production begins when the bushes are approximately four to five years old. Blackberries prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 7. Till the site thoroughly before planting blackberry bushes. Work one pound of 5-10-5 fertilizer ever 100 square feet into the soil one week prior to planting.
Planting & Care
Plant blackberry bushes a minimum of six feet apart and blackberry vines 10 feet apart for optimum growth. Dig a shallow hold that is large enough to accommodate the root system. Tamp the soil down around the roots and water thoroughly. Plant all blackberries in the early spring. Cut canes to 6 inches in height when planting.