Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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 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 diarrhea, 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 honored place among non-traditional flower essences It serves as a remedy for confusion. Bramble essence is said to help one realize 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 favorites:
Apple and Blackberry Crumble:
* 3 Large cooking apples
* ½ kg Blackberries
* 5oz Sugar or Honey
* ½ oz Butter
* 2 oz Butter
* 2oz Rolled oats
* 2oz Flour
* 1oz Walnuts (crumbled)
* 1oz Sugar or Honey
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.
* 2 cups blackberries
* 4 cups rhubarb
* 4 cups sugar
* Pinch salt
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.
* 2 cups white corn meal
* ¼ tsp. soda
* ¼ tsp. salt
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1 egg
* 1 cup sorghum molasses
* 1 ½ cup blackberries (the wild is better than tame)
# Into mixing bowl, add corn meal, soda, salt, buttermilk, egg; stir well. Add molasses, stir well. Add blackberries, stir into mixture without mashing them. Pour into a well greased iron skillet and bake slow at 350 degrees until pone begins to brown. Reduce heat to 200 degrees until cooked.
From Alicia's recipes
* 1 lb Blackberries
* 3 tb Sugar
* 1 tb Lemon juice
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