We went on a lovely walk yesterday to collect blackberries from the Priory Country Park. It was a beautiful day, and despite the rain when we set off it turned out lovely enough for the buggy to end up covered in discarded coats and jumpers.
The bushes by the lake were really fruiting early, but the ones in the woodlands still have a long way to go. Obviously the kids ate about two tonnes of blackberries each, and whilst Matt and I were much more restrained, we certainly had a few. Sweet and delicious.
This is a great time of year to collect berries, because although there are some sweet juicy ones, you can also find plenty of tart, not quite so ripe, ones. These are perfect for making jam as their pectin content is still very high. Lucky for me, my bread machine also doubles up as a jam maker (who'd have thought it?) so I don't have to spend hours over a hot stove and I still get to benefit from lovely jam.
We are making blackberry and oregano, although I have plenty of plums and pears that are not quite ripe yet, so I may try a few of those too. Yum yum.
If you are wondering whether 'blackberry and oregano' was a typo, then you should check out my previous post on fruits and herbs.
Why you should make your own jam:
- it's delicious.
- it's cheap - especially if you forage for ingredients!
- it's fun for kids to help with.
- it's a great learning opportunity, even a toddler can be shown how to weigh out equal quantities.
- it's nutritious and doesn't have all the E-numbers and preservatives that shop bought jams do.
If you are interested in making jam, the easiest way is to buy jam sugar. It already has added pectin, so you don't have to mess about adding anything else. Just measure equal quantities of fruit and sugar into your bread machine and then select the 'jam making' function (assuming you have one).
If you don't have a fancy bread machine, you can still make jam. For everything you need to know about getting started, there was an excellent article in the Guardian by Darina Allen that you should read.
UPDATE: The blackberry and oregano jam is delicious and worked beautifully. I thought I'd also share very quickly some of the health benefits/facts associated with the ingredients.
- Berries have recently been pinpointed as a leading source of compounds thought to produce health benefits for women, due to their high concentrations of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens, literally "plant estrogens", have been of interest to the scientific community b/c of their possible roll in prevention of both breast and cervical cancer. Studies now indicate that berries may contain some of the highest levels of phytoestrogens. These compounds act as a natural form of estrogen. During studies at the Univeristy of Helsinki in Finland, scientists measured eight different berries for their phytoestrogen level, and concluded that blackberries had the highest level of phytoestrogens followed by strawberries. (Northland Berry News Fall 2001)
- Blackberries are considered to be an astringent because of their high tannin content. Studies show that tannins tighten tissue, lesson minor bleeding, and may help to alleviate diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. German health authorities recommend blackberries for mild infections including sore throats and mouth irritations. Traditionally, blackberries have been used to alleviate hemorrhoids because of their rich tannin content. Scientists have also reported anti-tumor properties associated with tannins found in some varieties of blackberries. Future research will explore the implications for treating human cancer. (wholehealthmd.com)
- Blackberries abound in antioxidants, such as anthocyanin pigments, responsible for the purplish-black color of blackberries and may impart health benefits because of their antioxidant properties. Additional antioxidants in blackberries are vitamins C and E, and ellagic acid; all may provide protection against cancer and chronic disease. Cooking does not seem to destroy ellagic acid, so even blackberry jams and desserts retain ellagic acid health benefits. Interestingly, blackberries are a natural source of salicylate, an active substance found in aspirin. Potential benefits have yet to be explored and some experts advise caution to particularly aspirin-sensitive individuals. Because of their many tiny seeds, blackberries are a source of soluble fiber, such as pectin. (wholehealthmd.com)
- Berries: source of lycopene and ellagic acid, phytochemicals that prevent the cell damage that may lead to cancer. Blackberries are one of the few fruits that contain heart-protective vitamin E. Berries also strengthen blood vessels, protecting eyesight and reducing heart disease risk. (IDG books, 1999)
- Blackberries are high in fiber and vitamin C. They are effective in the treatment of watery diarrhea, weak stomachs, inflamed throat, and laryngitis, as well as when applied externally in the treatment of wounds. (vitabit.com)
- Research is indicating that dark colored berries, such as blackberries are rich in phenolics such as anthocyanins and ellagic acid. These are potent antioxidants. (Northland Berry News Summer 2001)
- We have all heard about the importance of antioxidants in forestalling the aging process. Just as your metal saw left in the elements rusts due to oxidation, your body deteriorates due to the effects of oxidation. Antioxidants fight the process of aging by fighting off the diseases associated with old age. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which can damage DNA molecules and lead to cancer. They also counteract environmental carcinogens, protect against cardiovascular diease, fight sun damage to skin and may thwart the effects of Alzheimer's and other age related disorders. Blackberries are among the top ten foods containing the highest antioxidant levels.
- Their flavor is one of the greatest reasons to eat blackberries. Beyond this rich flavor, blackberries, like all berries, are nutrition all-stars. A handful of these delicious berries provides a powerful team of nutrients including vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. To top it off, one cup or handful of blackberries supplies 8 grams of fiber, including cholesterol-lowering pectin. The fiber rich seeds contain high levels of ellagic acid, a potent antioxidant that battles cancer in many different ways. Blackberries with their high fiber content reduce the risk of developing diabetes and intestinal disease such as diverticulosis, as well as fight against obesity. The deep blue and purple colors of blackberries top the charts as the leading disease fighting pigment. Foods rich in this brilliant blue color, the anthocyannin pigment, quench more free radicals in the body than any other food, protecting against all disease. (saveonfoods.com)
- Oregano contains impressive list of plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
- The herb parts contain no cholesterol; but are rich source of dietary fiber which helps to control blood cholesterol levels.
- Oregano contains many health benefiting essential oils such as carvacrol, thymol, limonene, pinene, ocimene, and caryophyllene. The leaves and flowering stems of the plant are strongly anti-septic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, cholagogue (help gall bladder secretion), diaphoretic (sweat production), expectorant, stimulant, and mildly tonic properties. Its decoction is taken by mouth for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild fevers, indigestion, stomach upsets and painful menstruation. Thymol is also been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal activities.
- The herb is rich in poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants (vitamin A, carotenes, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin) and has been rated as one of the plant source with highest anti-oxidant activities. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease process.
- The active principles in the herb may increase the motility of the gastro-intestinal tract as well as increase the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal secretions.
- This exotic herb is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Iron helps prevent anemia. Magnesium and calcium are important minerals for bone metabolism.
- Fresh herb is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C. Vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
- Oregano is a proven super "functional food". This herb is one of the foundation bases of healthy Mediterranean diet in addition to olive oil, fish and lots of greens, herbs and vegetables. It has an excellent nutritional profile; just 100 g of oregano herb provides:
Carotene-ß- 4112 mcg.
(RDA- Recommended daily allowance)
So there you have it. Delicious and good for you. Enjoy!