Friday, July 25, 2014

Wild Edibles #6 Blackberry

Disclaimer: Some wild plants are not only edible but delicious. Other wild plants will kill you if you eat them. Be absolutely certain what a plant is before you eat it. Plant varieties differ from region to region. When in doubt, consult a local expert.

Blackberry dominates much of the eastern United States. There  is a blackberry in the western states but it is a different species than what we have here.

Blackberry is called by several different names but the most common are of course blackberry, bramble berry, or just simply bramble.

Blackberries grow from perennial roots on biannual canes. This means the first year the plant is visible it will produce no fruit. It produces fruit in its second year. The canes may survive one additional year after fruit production but then dies. The canes do not go away they just simply die and stay in place. After several years they can create what appears to be an impenetrable mangle of plant matter, so much so that people have actually used blackberry as a perimeter fence. Only the truly desperate or those with a tractor and a Bush hog can get through unharmed. All of the wild blackberry bushes have thorns. Razor sharp thorns. If moving quickly these thorns can easily cut through a denim pair of jeans. When picking the berries be very careful.

There have been thornless varieties that have been created though cross pollenization.  Some hybrids not only lack thorns, but the berries can be much larger. These have not been genetically modified. They have simply been cross bred many times to promote certain characteristics. Much the same way as many breeds of sheep, cattle, or dogs.

I love the flavor of blackberries. When I find a good patch it is difficult to put more berries in the bucket than my mouth. Sweet to slightly tart when fully ripe, blackberries are excellent for jams, jellies, wines, and cobbler. We made blackberry peach cobbler this year and it was incredible.

Blackberries bloom early spring, normally during a cool spell. We call this blackberry winter and it usually signals the last cold snap of winter. The berries start out a very pale green almost white. They turn red as they grow and eventually turn black when ripe. Blackberries ripen late June to mid July. There is an old wive's tale that states to pick your blackberries before the 4th of July because the devil pees on them after that. I don't care what they say, when the berries are ripe I will get them.

Nutritionally blackberries contain vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium. A single serving only contains 62 calories but provides 50% of the USDA recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Just FYI you can peel and eat young first year canes raw. Not bad, I could eat them in a salad.

As Medicine

Most of the medicinal properties of blackberries can be found in the leaves and root. The root bark containing a higher concentration of herbal properties.

Blackberries have the following herbal actions:

  • Astringent - causes contraction of body tissues
  • Depurative - purifying or detoxifying action
  • Diuretic - increases urine flow
  • Tonic - gives a feeling of well being
  • Vulnerary - good for healing wounds
You can see from that list of actions alone that the wonderful tasting blackberry has a lot more to offer than we thought. In fact blackberry has been used to treat cystitis, diarrhea, dysentery,  gum inflammations, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers, sore throat, and thrush. 

There are two ways that blackberry root bark and leaves are used herbally. One is as a tea. The tea is used most often for intestinal problems. The second is a decoction. A decoction is when you extract the essence by boiling. Sometimes this boiling is done in water and sometimes wine. The resulting liquid is then strained. 

A decoction of blackberry in water can even be used as a general mouthwash to promote oral health.

When I was a child we made a cough medicine with blackberry juice, honey, and whiskey. It worked!

I hope you are enjoying learning about wild edibles. May the information we share help you achieve

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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Other Posts in this Series: #1 Wood Sorrel#2 Wild Strawberry and WoodberryWild Edibles #3 Dove's Foot Geranium#4 Broadleaf Plantain, #5 Queen Anne's Lace

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