The schizophrenic sub-zero weather that we were blessed with up here in the hinterlands of Markdale has confined me more so than originally expected to the comforts of indoors. Not content reading the wrapping on toilet paper rolls in order to ward off cabin fever, I snooped through the piles of varied farm-related magazines that accumulate quite regularly on sundry tables in various nooks and crannies around the house.
When the word blackberries appeared in one of the headings, I reached for my tall glass of hot chocolate and settled down to read it start to finish. It interested me more fully because I was given two vigorous-looking blackberry- rooted canes as a going-away gift, from longtime friends, when I aborted residency from the Grand River-hugging town of Fergus. They were potted, thornless, and easy to transport, and my hopes hover high because I always wanted to try them in my garden.
It was an article written by Thomas E. Doyle in the Countryside & Small Stock Journal, March/April 2011. It was quite informative, with in-depth explanations, and though my space is limited, I will pick the parts that I feel most informative to the average backyard gardener.
“Foods that taste good fresh, cooked, or frozen are contrary to what we generally think when we are thinking about a healthy diet. The blackberry is an extraordinary exception, with not only the fruit but also the leaves and root bark offering health benefits. The wide varieties of macronutrients make an excellent addition to a balanced healthy diet. The fruit is high in dietary fibre, carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats that make blackberries a heart-friendly fruit.
“Blackberries are also an excellent beverage and the fastest growing sector for wine making. The best part is that tests on blackberries indicate that cooking or freezing has little if any effect on the health benefits.
“Tests have shown that letting the berries ripen fully can increase the health benefits as much as four-fold. Blackberries do not ripen after picking, and the longer they are on the vine, the sweeter they get. Isn’t that great? The sweetest, best-tasting berries are also the healthiest.
“There are three kinds of blackberries – erect, semi-erect, and trailing, also known in some parts of the country as dewberries – and they are among the easiest fruits to grow. They will produce in Zones 2 to 10 or in every state and Canada. Blackberries do require some protection during very cold weather. Depending on the variety, the protection is needed from temperatures of zero to minus 20 and below.
“Blackberries are called floricane producers because they produce on two-year-old canes and have to go through a period of dormancy in order to bear fruit.”
So there you have it, folks; I have seen these thornless trailing varieties with canes that stretched along a fence reaching just short of twenty feet, with fist-sized clusters of berries still ripening late, late in the fall, so plant your canes accordingly.
Take care, ‘cause we care.

Barrie Hopkins