Autumn equinox always arrives with a shock: summer is over, winter is on the approach! How could it be? It seems only such a short while ago that we laughed and played in the summer sun, but all of a sudden I hear the equinox storms hurling outside my window and threatening looking clouds are being chased across the sky. I sigh. The last of the foraging days are ahead. From now until samhain or all saints a last flurry of activity lies ahead: gathering mushrooms, berries and nuts to fill the winter larder.
Strawberries, raspberries, red currents - most of the berries are already gone. But one remains, serving to remind us of sweet summer days and accompanying us to winter's threshold: the lowly Bramble - also known as Blackberry. How we curse it in spring and summer when we find passage across a field blocked by its thorny arms, when its barbs tear our clothes, tangle our hair, or scratch our skin! When bramble blocks the way it means business. Although it is not impossible to overcome, most will choose an easier route than to engage in direct combat.
Yet, who can resist its sweet berries when summer comes to a close? From the end of August to the beginning of November Bramble bestows a seemingly endless harvest, so much so that looking at the remaining rows of jam jars I always wonder whether I will be able to finish it all before the time comes to make more…
Bramble is an undemanding plant, springing up just about anywhere it gets a chance. In fact, it is often regarded a weed. But, like many other so-called weeds, its humble appearance disguises a lavish gift.
Blackberries are rich in vitamins, especially C and A, and minerals. They also contain flavonoids and tannins, which means that they are not only delicious field fare or jam material, but can also be used medicinally.
The tannins act astringent, thus medicinally blackberries (as well as the blackberry leaves, when picked in spring) can be used to tighten the gums, and to inhibit bleeding. Small children benefit from their action on a 'rumble-tum', arresting diarrhoea, settling an upset, nervous stomach and even soothing a stomach-flu.
The leaves can be brewed into a tea. Sometimes they are mixed with raspberry and strawberry leaves to make a refreshing general purpose household tea. Medicinal they act diuretic and diaphoretic and thus are used to cleanse the blood and lower a fever. A less known, very valuable property of the leaves is their ability to lower blood sugar levels, which should be interesting for diabetics, who ought to consider using blackberry leaves as an alternative to regular tea or coffee. The leaves are also astringent and can be used as a gargle to soothe a sore throat. The berries or juice are beneficial for treating hoarseness. Singers and public speakers should make ample use of this freely available and effective remedy.
On a more spiritual note, the lowly bramble flower has an honoured place among non-traditional flower essences It serves as a remedy for confusion. Bramble essence is said to help one realise the 'essential truth' or underlying pattern of a situation and is thus said to help find solutions to a problem. It is claimed to bring about mental clarity and aid concentration and memory.
Of course there are gazillions of blackberry recipes - cordials, jam, jellies, ice cream, mousse, pies, chutneys and tons more. I prefer them fresh off the vine with a little cream, but here are some all-time favourites:
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
Peel and cut the apples into small chunks. Melt the butter and sauté the pieces, stirring frequently. Add the sugar, lemon and cinnamon and walnuts and continue to stir until the apples are getting soft.
Prepare the crumble topping by rubbing the softened butter, sugar, flour and oats into a crumbly mixture.
Add the blackberries to the softened apple filling and stir gently. Transfer the filling into a shallow ovenproof casserole and sprinkle the crumble topping on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Carefully clean the berries and peel and cut the rhubarb into one inch pieces. Place the fruit into a heavy pan with 2 cups of sugar and boil for three 3 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar and a pinch salt and boil for four more minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and sea. Makes three pints.
Serve this with duck.
Combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in a pot. Cover and cook
until bubbling, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, place in a food processor and blend.
Pass through a strainer to remove the seeds.
Chill before serving.
Can be frozen for up to 1 year.
Makes 1 Cup
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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.
Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.