Black Raspberry

Black Raspberry
Rubus occidentalis

Nature has a wonderful way of leaving clues for us to follow. About the time the domestic cherry is bearing fruit the blooms of the Black Raspberry are opening. This allows us to plan to start picking about the time the last of the cherries are ripe. If the weather has cooperated it is possible to have cherries and black raspberries in your yogurt or cereal before the cherries are gone.

Black raspberries are wonderful fruits to eat. They can be eaten raw, brought to a boil with a small amount of water then mashed and frozen to make sorbet, made into juice, jelly, jam, preserves and added to home made or store bought ice cream. What you can make with them or from them is almost limitless. Cobbler, pie, muffins, ice cream toppings, and once dried the list grows longer. Black raspberries can be frozen, dehydrated and water bath canned.

Medicinally, black raspberry fruit, leaves and root are used primarily for gastric conditions such as upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. I always can a few half pints and pints to use for the common stomach virus that seems to pop up once or twice a year. A tablespoon of black raspberry juice taken after vomiting will help calm the stomach in one or two doses. It works the same way for diarrhea. Taking a tablespoon after each bowel movement will stop the body from leaching out important electrolytes. Black raspberry is safe to use with babies and children. When my children were young I would occasionally add a tablespoon of black raspberry juice to a small amount of plain Pediolyte to help restore electrolyte when they were sick. The juice also helps mask the taste of Pedialyte. Since the fruits are easily digested they are great to feed to people who are recovering from an illness or injury. The root can be used in the winter instead of the fruits.

Black raspberries tend to be bountiful every other year. The shoots that are easily recognized by their purplish color and round stem are the first year growth. These shoots do not usually produce fruit. The second year stems will. A semi-permanent dye can be made from these first year shoots. Depending on the weather the color may be gray-blue, red-purple or blue-purple. Salt or alum added to the water prior to adding the chopped stem (or fruits) will act as a mordant preserving the color.

An easy rhyme to help identify the black raspberry from the blackberry is: “raspberries are round, blackberries are built like a box.” Blackberry stems are square IE box. Black raspberries, red raspberries and the hybrid raspberry cultivars are round. While it is easy to identify the fruits finding a black raspberry plant to dig up the root can be difficult if you forget the rhyme.