Blackberry





This is the well-known fruit of the Common Bramble (Rubus

fructicosus), which grows in every English hedgerow, and which

belongs to the Rose order of plants. It has long been esteemed for

its bark and leaves as a [54] capital astringent, these containing

much tannin; also for its fruit, which is supplied with malic and

citric acids, pectin, and albumen. Blackberries go often by the

name of bumblekites, from bumble, the cry of the bittern, and

kyte, a Scotch word for belly; the name bumblekite being applied,

says Dr. Prior, from the rumbling and bumbling caused in the

bellies of children who eat the fruit too greedily. Rubus is from

the Latin ruber, red.



The blackberry has likewise acquired the name of scaldberry, from

producing, as some say, the eruption known as scaldhead in

children who eat the fruit to excess; or, as others suppose, from the

curative effects of the leaves and berries in this malady of the

scalp; or, again, from the remedial effects of the leaves when

applied externally to scalds.



It has been said that the young shoots, eaten as a salad, will fasten

loose teeth. If the leaves are gathered in the Spring and dried, then,

when required, a handful of them may be infused in a pint of

boiling water, and the infusion, when cool, may be taken, a

teacupful at a time, to stay diarrhoea, and for some bleedings.

Similarly, if an ounce of the bruised root is boiled in three

half-pints of water, down to a pint, a teacupful of this may be given

every three or four hours. The decoction is also useful against

whooping-cough in its spasmodic stage. The bark contains tannin;

and if an ounce of the same be boiled in a pint and a half of water,

or of milk, down to a pint, half a teacupful of the decoction may be

given every hour or two for staying relaxed bowels. Likewise the

fruit, if desiccated in a moderately hot oven, and afterwards

reduced to powder (which should be kept ill a well corked bottle)

will prove an efficacious remedy for dysentery.



[55] Gerard says: Bramble leaves heal the eyes that hang out, and

stay the haemorrhoides [piles] if they can be laid thereunto. The

London Pharmacopoeia (1696) declared the ripe berries of the

bramble to be a great cordial, and to contain a notable restorative

spirit. In Cruso's Treasury of Easy Medicines (1771), it is

directed for old inveterate ulcers: Take a decoction of blackberry

leaves made in wine, and foment the ulcers with this whilst hot

each night and morning, which will heal them, however difficult to

be cured. The name of the bush is derived from brambel, or

brymbyll, signifying prickly; its blossom as well as the fruit, ripe

and unripe, in all stages, may be seen on the bush at the same time.

With the ancient Greeks Blackberries were a popular remedy for

gout.



As soon as blackberries are over-ripe, they become quite

indigestible. Country folk say in Somersetshire and Sussex: The

devil goes round on Old Michaelmas Day, October 11th, to spite

the Saint, and spits on the blackberries, so that they who eat them

after that date fall sick, or have trouble before the year is out.

Blackberry wine and blackberry jam are taken for sore throats in

many rustic homes. Blackberry jelly is useful for dropsy from

feeble ineffective circulation. To make blackberry cordial, the

juice should be expressed from the fresh ripe fruit, adding half a

pound of white sugar to each quart thereof, together with half an

ounce of both nutmeg and cloves; then boil these together for a

short time, and add a little brandy to the mixture when cold.



In Devonshire the peasantry still think that if anyone is troubled

with blackheads, i.e., small pimples, or boils, he may be cured

by creeping from East to West on the hands and knees nine times

beneath an arched [56] bramble bush. This is evidently a relic of

an old Dryad superstition when the angry deities who inhabited

particular trees had to be appeased before the special diseases

which they inflicted could be cured. It is worthy of remark that the

Bramble forms the subject of the oldest known apologue. When

Jonathan upbraided the men of Shechem for their base ingratitude

to his father's house, he related to them the parable of the trees

choosing a king, by whom the Bramble was finally elected, after

the olive, the fig tree, and the vine had excused themselves from

accepting this dignity.



In the Roxburghe Ballad of The Children in the Wood, occurs

the verse--



Their pretty lips with Blackberries

Were all besmeared and dyed;

And when they saw the darksome night

They sat them down, and cryed.



The French name for blackberries is mures sauvages, also

mures de haie; and in some of our provincial districts they are

known as winterpicks, growing on the Blag.



Blackberry wine, which is a trustworthy cordial astringent remedy

for looseness of the bowels, may be made thus: Measure your

berries, and bruise them, and to every gallon of the fruit add a

quart of boiling water. Let the mixture stand for twenty-four hours,

occasionally stirring; then strain off the liquid, adding to every

gallon a couple of pounds of refined sugar, and keep it in a cask

tightly corked till the following October, when it will be ripe and

rich.



A noted hair-dye is said to be made by boiling the leaves of the

bramble in strong lye, which then imparts permanently to the hair

a soft, black colour. Tom Hood, in his humorous way, described a

negro funeral [57] as going a black burying. An American poet

graphically tell us:--



Earth's full of Heaven,

And every common bush afire with God!

But only they who see take off their shoes;

The rest sit round it, and--pluck blackberries.





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