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Growing Blackberries

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Blackberries, or Rubus species, are blooming all over the Bluegrass Region. Wild Blackberries are tall with thorny, arching canes and compound leaves. The marble size berries start out red and slowly turn a deep purple-black color when fully ripe. Blackberry canes are biennials – living only two years – while the roots are perennial – living indefinitely. Blackberries multiply by spreading roots

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Thornless Blackberries, or tame Blackberries are just as their name suggest. These canes contain no thorns and make harvesting very easy. Typically the berries of thornless varieties are much larger, but they also contain larger stems. Many people prefer the taste of tame berries to wild berries, but I think the wild ones are much better.

Edible Blackberries: Blackberries are edible and medicinal. Young edible shoots are harvested in the spring, peeled and used in salads. Delicious Blackberries are edible raw or made into jelly or jam.

Medicinal Blackberries: The leaf is more commonly used as a medicinal herb, but the root also has medicinal value. The root-bark and the leaves are astringent and diuretic.. They make an excellent alternative medicine for dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and cystitis.

The most astringent part is the root. Orally, they are used to treat sore throats, mouth ulcers and gum inflammations. A decoction of the leaves is useful as a gargle in treating thrush and also makes a good general mouthwash. The presence of large amounts of tannins that give blackberry roots and leaves an astringent effect useful for treating diarrhea are also helpful for soothing sore throats. Medicinal syrup is also made from Blackberry, using the fruit and root bark in honey for a cough remedy.

Using Blackberries: I enjoy making jams, jellies and preserves, and Blackberry Jam is a family favorite. Because I don’t like to use pectin – an ingredient to make the jam or jelly firm up – the recipe I use is a generic one I learned from my Granny. I use the same recipe for all of my jams.

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