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LET'S COOK: You so deserve this blackberry
July 5, 2019

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This week I had a flashback to a grocery store conversation I had several years ago in Rugby. I was standing in the produce department when Richard Lavik came over and started a conversation. It was not about creative ways to use Brussels sprouts, but rather things I could teach our then very young daughter, Lydia.

Richard at the time was the superintendent of the Rugby Schools and our neighbor on Third Street. He and his family took a shine to young Lydia and her ways. He mentioned to me that when his daughter, Gillian, was preschool age he explained to her an equilateral triangle, noting that it has three equal sides and three equal angles. That conversation did make an impression on me in a couple of ways. First, that we should take time to explain numerous things to our daughters, and another to never underestimate grocery store produce conversation.

The other day I was looking at some blackberries in the grocery store and a complete stranger looked at me and said, "I have never really appreciated blackberries, and I find their seeds to be so annoying." Another produce conversation! However, I took this one as a sign that I needed to write a cooking column about blackberries. Just as Richard explained to me that an equilateral triangle is special because four of them together can make a regular tetrahedron. So you may have make blackberry jelly, jam, cobbler and pie and those angles with blackberries will benefit you in creating a delicious blackberry soup!

My dad enjoyed raising strawberries and raspberries in our Underwood garden. Our first real introduction to blackberries came from my Aunt Marjorie who lived in Washington where blackberries grow like chokecherries here. She brought us a basket full one summer and made cobbler with them.

Blackberries belong to the bramble clan and my Aunt Marjorie mentioned that the brambles rambled in many places out west. She also mentioned that their thorny canes can be sharp so long sleeves were a must with harvest. She would smile to know that the University of Arkansas cultivated a thornless blackberry bush. I would be interested to know if anyone has grown blackberries here in North Dakota.

Blackberries reach their peak in the northern United States in July. So now is the time to be purchasing blackberries. Choose firm but fully ripe fruit. Most varieties in stores here are almost fully black, but from time to time I have seen ripe berries that are more purplish with a hint of red wine tone present. When you have motored the garnet nuggets to your home, refrigerate the berries immediately without washing them. Rinse before using them and note that blackberries tend to mold easily so use or freeze them quickly. When freezing them, I spread them on a jelly-roll pan one layer deep and place in the freezer until marble hard. Transfer these jewels to freezer bags and note they have a freezer life of one year.

Blackberries are wonderful when eaten fresh and this is certainly easy. Perfectly ripe berries are calling for real cream and don't even think of arguing with the purple jewel. Place them in clear bowls, mounted, sprinkle with sugar and robed with real cream. Blackberries also pair nicely with fresh peaches, raspberries, and cantaloupe and they enjoyed being dressed with orange juice and a dash of sugar.

So take time to try blackberries this season and also to be open to interesting grocery store produce conversation. Richard had a true impact on his daughter, along with his wife, Joy, because Gillian certainly mastered the equilateral triangle and more. Dr. Gillian Lavik is currently on staff at Trinity Hospital, and that is a blessing to the Minot community. I would be willing to bet that she knows the benefit of a BlackBerry device, and that she would encourage all of us to have more blackberries in our diets.

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