6th May 2013

The Bramble or Blackberry Rubus fructicosus is, like the Nettle, and completely undervalued plant.  Most people at some point have picked blackberries from the hedgerow, although even this is sadly dying out, but otherwise the plant is viewed as a complete nuisance.

Like the Dandelion, it is considered an aggregate of over 800 separate similar microspecies and there are over 1000 described species worldwide. This means that the plant is extremely variable, with differences in the size and number of its thorns, its colouration, the size of the fruit etc., etc. However, despite this is is easily recognised and few people aren’t familiar with it in some way shape of form.

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What most people aren’t aware of is its other uses aside from producing blackberries at the end of summer.

The leaves have long been used medicinally as a tea for a variety of ailments from mouth ulcers, gingivitis, sore throats to diarrhoea as well as colds and ‘flu.  They can also be made into a superior wild tea, resembling Earl Grey which we will look at in a future blog once the leaves have matured a bit.

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Surprisingly the leaf shoots at this time of year can also be eaten.  There are references for using the thick shoot tips that snap off crisply, either steamed or blended into nettle soup but we have found that the young leaf shoots can also be used as long as the thorns are still soft.  We have boiled them as a green veg as well as mixing them with other veg and onions as fried greens.  The retain their texture and are surprisingly pleasant, with no bitterness.  At the moment they are a reasonable size but the thorns are still soft and so are perfect for using, but within a very short time the thorns will have firmed up making them no good for using like this.  Their abundance makes it easy to collect reasonable quantities.

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Kev Palmer

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