What To Do With All Those Blackberries
by Linda Martin
Blackberry leaf iced-tea is a popular summertime drink. This plant also has safe and effective medicinal properties.
Also known as: bramble, cloudberry, dewberry, goutberry, high blackberry, thimbleberry
Our rocky hill is covered with blackberry bushes – the Klamath River Valley in Northern California abounds in them – and yet I have learned they are not naturally indigenous to this area. My research shows they are native to the northern and middle states, however they have inundated our town. When we moved here we put paths through the massive bramble patches to make picking easier, and tore out some of the bushes in the process. There are so many blackberries, nobody is complaining. They looked like they hadn’t been pruned in years and needed a heavy hand.
Blackberries do fine in dry or sandy areas, but also like rich soil and will appreciate compost and lots of sunshine. We experimented with watering the berries and decided that the unwatered berries were doing better. Berry bushes in shade or partial shade produced more than bushes in full sunshine, where often the berries dried up before they were completely ripe.
Roping these thorn-covered berry bushes in with a trellis or tie-backs not only protects berry pickers but also guards the safety of the plants, especially through the winter. Weed as much as possible and mulch during winter. Prune after berry-picking season is ended. Blackberries, like roses, must be pruned to thrive.
Leaves must be used fresh cut (immediately) or dried thoroughly before use. Do not use if only partially dried! If used fresh, use twice as much as you would of the dried herb. Roots are also harvested for medicinal use. Clean them thoroughly and dry completely before using.
Traditional medicinal uses:
Bleeding Gums: chew fresh leaves
Diarrhea: well-known remedy; use a tea of leaves or a decoction of roots.
Hemorrhoids: same as for diarrhea.
Mouth Ulcers (Canker Sores): drink tea or chew fresh leaves
Sore Throats: drink tea
Blackberry leaves contain vitamin C, flavonoids, tannins and ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is anti-carcinogenic. Both leaves and berries are highly astringent. A tea of the leaves is a good tonic.
I tried chewing the leaves. They are a bit prickly at first but otherwise pleasant tasting.
Astringent: An agent that contracts organic tissue, reducing secretions or discharges.
Tonic: An agent that strengthens or invigorates organs or the entire organism.
For tea, I choose the freshest, cleanest leaves I can find. Use eight teaspoons chopped fresh leaves for each cup boiled water or use four teaspoons dried leaves for each cup boiled water. To make the tea using fresh leaves, use twice as much, and use them immediately upon picking. Semi-dry leaves should never be used. Steep 20 minutes. I like this tea quite a bit – it needs no sweetener to be delicious hot or cold.
This will extract the bitter principles and mineral salts of the plant more than vitamins. Boil about 1/2 ounce blackberry root per cup of water. Use an enamel pot (non-metallic). Boil 10 minutes, then cover and steep about 10 minutes more. Strain and store in the refrigerator. This would be used as a medicine, given by the spoonful, not as a tea. Blackberry root is a well-known, time-honored remedy, and I’ve never heard of anyone being harmed by it. Nevertheless, use caution, using only a small amount, especially if you are using the herb for the first time. Moderation is needed; too much of anything can be harmful.
Some basic information on making jam
Jam is a crushed fruit preserve made with sugar, thickened, and stored in jars. Jam is usually thickened with pectin, a natural vegetable substance that creates jelly when combined with sugar and acidic fruit. Blackberries are one of several fruits that can produce enough natural pectin to be able to eliminate store-bought pectin, but to do so you would have to boil the fruit much longer and add a few under-ripe berries as they contain more pectin.
To prepare jars: clean them, and then place them in a kettle, covering jars and lids with hot water. Heat to a boil, then leave them covered and warm until they are needed.
Jam that will be kept longer than two months must be sealed with paraffin or put in specially sealed canning jars. Canning jars are filled to the top. The rim is wiped clean and then the seals are placed on while hot. The metal rim is then screwed on tightly and the jar allowed to cool on a metal rack.
To seal with paraffin: Heat the paraffin in a double boiler. Fill jars up to 1/2 inch from the top, and immediately cover with a 1/8″ layer of paraffin. Prick any air-bubbles to get rid of them, and be sure all the jam is covered.
Blackberry Jam – with powdered pectin
2 quarts delicious, ripe blackberries
7 cups sugar
One ‘1+3/4’ oz box powdered pectin
Wash the berries and crush them well.
If you prefer less seedy jam, sieve half of the crushed berries to remove seeds.
In a sauce pan, combine 4 cups crushed berries with the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil.
Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
Remove from heat and stir in the powdered pectin.
For five minutes you will need to skim off the foam. Between skimmings, stir some more.
Fill hot sterilized jars and seal.
Makes about 4 pints.
Optional: If you prefer a more tart jam, replace 1/4 cup of the berries with 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Blackberry Jam – no cooking needed, with liquid pectin
2 cups very ripe blackberries, about 1 quart
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 bottle liquid pectin
Crush the berries
Strain 1/2 of them if desired, but if you do, add one more cup of berries.
Put berries in a large bowl and mix with the sugar.
Combine pectin and lemon juice, and then stir them into the berries.
Stir for about three minutes.
Pour into glasses or freezer jars, cover tightly and let stand 24 hours.
Store in freezer up to one year, or 3 weeks in refrigerator.
Makes 3 pints.
5 cups fresh blackberries
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Unbaked pastry crust (enough to cover)
Wash berries and put in 10″x6″x2″ pan. Mix the sugar, flour and salt together and sprinkle over the berries to sweeten and thicken the cobbler. Dot with butter, roll the pastry crust 1/8″ thick and cover, pressing down the edges with your fingers or a fork. Cut vents in the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake 30 minutes in a 425-degree oven, until the crust is golden brown. You will not regret it!
Author’s disclaimer – read this!
I am not a doctor, health practitioner, or licensed anything. All I do is read books, experiment, and write about things I’ve researched in this way. Please use common sense in using herbs – using only a very small amount when you first use a new herb. You may be allergic to it, for goodness sakes! So go slow. If it helps, you can use more if you are sure it is safe to do so. Herbs are medicinal in nature and you need to know how it will affect you before using a whole lot. I myself have found some herbs dangerous to me – for example, one tea I tried reacted badly to a doctor-prescribed medicine I always use, and I cannot drink that herb tea at all. Do be careful, but enjoy the herbs God has set upon the earth for us to use.
Thanks for all the tips – I’m especially excited to try the tea.
Just transplanted a blackberry bush this summer, and it’s really taking off!