Wild blackberries abound in Italy. Ok, that's a bit general, I have not been everywhere in Italy this summer, but I can safely say that they are abundant in Florence and Cinque Terre. I'm all for anything free and tasty, so I will always stop and pick a few when they are in reach. Most evenings I like to go for a "passeggiata," or stroll, usually along the Fiume (river) Arno, and there are lots of vines that grow down towards the river. A fence conveniently kept me from clambering down and picking any, getting torn up from the pickers, and possibly dying in the pursuit, but it didn't stop a little Nonna one evening from trying her best to reach through the fence and grab a few tasty morsels. I admired her greatly. Along the hiking trails of Cinque Terre there was also a plethora, and they were perfectly placed along the trail for me to grab handfuls here and there, energy bursts for the 2 hour (solid uphill ;) ardent trek! Especially helpful since I had already eaten my packed lunch before we even started hiking...And then there was that one time when Paul, who loves to do triathlon and ride his bike for millions of miles, said he had passed a huge group of blueberry bushes while riding up in the mountains. So we drove up to the spot, up into the rolling hills of Tuscany, prepared with bags, open mouths, and welcoming stomachs. Melinda and I headed to the nearest loaded bush, and although my first thought was "those are strange looking blueberries" it didn't occur to me to stop and figure out what they were before picking or eating any. They had been told to me as blueberries, therefore they must be. So the first thing I do? Pop one in my mouth. It was the single most sour bitter thing I have ever had in my mouth. And I like sour things, I eat lemons plain. But this had a pit and I was expecting a sweet blueberry. I swiftly spit it out and we didn't pick or eat anymore. For awhile after we were convinced it was nightshade, OH NO, and I thought I might die. Not really, it wasn't. But don't eat something if you don't know what it is. JENNY. I'm looking at you.
Another evening I took a different route for my passeggiata and passed tons of blackberry bushes. They lined the road for quite a ways, and so I went back several times with friends to pick a couple bagfuls. I gained a few battle scars from the prickers, some "ciao bella's" from people passing on the road probably wondering what is that weird girl doing climbing on the road guard half hidden/hanging from thorns in bushes, but most importantly, free berries. And what do you do when you have too many blackberries to eat? You bake with them, of course. Delicious and tender banana bread with little bites of blackberries dispersed throughout topped with a sweet cinnamon streusel.
Blackberry Banana Bread with Cinnamon Streusel
For the Blackberry Banana Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 bananas, mashed
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups blackberries
For the Cinnamon Streusel
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp cold butter
Oven 350 Fahrenheit. Grease one 9x5 in loaf pan.
Make the Blackberry Banana Bread
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
In another large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, banana, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently fold in blackberries.
Pour into prepared pan.
Make the Cinnamon Streusel
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or my preferred method, clean hands, add butter and mix until crumbles form.
Sprinkle evenly over batter and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.
Allow to cool in pan at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Feel free to substitute any type of berry for the blackberries! Blueberries and raspberries are also delicious.
I put the vague measurement of 2-3 bananas because either will yield a delicious bread. The more banana the more moist it will be, and also a touch heavier. And let's face it, every banana is going to be a different size. So even if I gave you an exact measurement like 200g, and that ended up being 2 7/16 of a banana, what are you going to do with the remaining 9/16 of that mushy banana? You see my point that I have already over explained, so just use however many mushy bananas you have on hand, 2-3.