Herb of the Month – January: Brambles

Herb of the Month – January: Brambles

The Rubus genus delights us with between 250 to 700 different species because of its ease of hybridization. This grouping includes diverse cultivars of blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, and boysenberries and is part of the rose family.

This is a hardy plant that could become a nuisance and does spread to the wild. It can be propagated through suckering, layering, or seeds. Modern cultivars without thorns are available, especially through the pioneering breeding program at the University of Arkansas. There are erect, semi-erect, and trailing cultivars which require different cultural practice.

The berries from this genus have supplied humanity with fruit long before written history evidenced by stone age fossils of this herb found. This herb was noted by the Greeks and Romans as an excellent source of food and medicine. China and India have also used Rubus pp. for traditional medicinal purposes. The leaves are also used in modern decoctions and teas. Traditionally, those teas have been used to treat ulcers, mouth sores, nausea and more. The Bramble has also been used to protect livestock as a living fence.

During Medieval times, the berries were juiced and used to illustrate manuscripts and as a colorant for paintings. The berries were so precious that only the wealthy could afford to include them in their diet. This brought about their cultivation which began in England in the 13th century.

Those who settled the Americas brought the European herbal traditions with them and used the berries medicinally. Today, we appreciate the antiviral, antiallergenic, and other properties of these healthful berries and their leaves.  ~~ Reni Erskine

Bramble fruit is so very versatile and can be added impromptu to many culinary creations such as muffins, crumbles, or even salad!  Give it a try with some of your favorite combinations.

Blackberry Sauce

Use ripe blackberries from your favorite thicket. The amounts can vary. Place washed berries into a stainless steel pan with some water, 1/2 to 1 cup, and allow them to come to a light simmer.

You also have the option of thickening the sauce with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with water and/or adding lemon juice from one lemon.

Add sugar to taste, beginning with ½ cup.  The riper and sweeter the berries, the less sugar that is required.

At this point, you can decide to remove the seeds by working your mixture through a sieve.

 Adding lemon zest from one lemon is an option.

Explore some of the above options and make this recipe your own!  This sauce is wonderful on pancakes, pound cake, cheesecake, or ice cream. ~~ Reni Erskine

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Loosely fill a glass mason jar with raspberries.

Add white wine vinegar, covering the fruit.

Use a plastic screw-on lid that will not degrade from the acid.

Place in a dark place for at least one week to macerate.

Strain and decant into a lovely clear bottle that you label.

~~ Reni Erskine

Reni Erskine
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