Blackberries – 10 weird and wonderful facts

Britain’s beloved blackberry has a rich history – but did you know any of those things about good old brambles…

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It’s blackberry season and you are sure to be out and about with your bowls picking as many blackberries as you can find. If you are looking for some great things to make with blackberries, check out our list of blackberry recipes here. In the meantime, here are some bizarre and fascinating facts about this favourite fruit.

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1. The devil ruins blackberries after Michaelmas

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One of the most famous English folk stories states that blackberries should not be picked after Michaelmas Day as the devil has urinated on them, angry after he fell from Heaven onto a blackberry bush. The legend has some truth as wetter and cooler weather in late October often allows the fruit to spoil, but it should not be taken literally – blackberries picked in late October can still be very tasty!

2. Batology is the scientific study of blackberries

Thought it was the study of bats? You were wrong! Chiropterology is the study of bats. Just to confuse you even further – a batologist is defined as someone who studies blackberries but is also frequently and probably mistakenly used a colloquial and humorous term for someone who studies bats.

3. Truces were called in the Civil War to pick blackberries

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During the Civil War, blackberry tea was said to be the best cure for dysentery. Temporary truces were declared throughout the conflict to allow both Union and Confederate soldiers to forage for blackberries. It was not completely successful however, as outbreaks of dysentery still plagued the soldiers throughout the war.

4. Bramble thorns caused the downfall of one Greek hero

The Greeks enjoyed blackberries and believed them to be a cure for mouth and throat diseases. According to Greek mythology, the hero Belleraphon was thrown into brambles after he dared to ride the Pegasus to Mount Olympus. He was blinded by the thorns in his fall and wandered alone and outcast thereafter.

5. Eating blackberries makes you look younger!

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This one is not a myth – blackberries are rich in anti-oxidants that promote the healthy tightening of tissue, making your skin less likely to sag or wrinkle!

6. Blackberries have been used as hair dye

Nicholas Culpeper, an English herbalist from the 1600s, recommended the blackberry leaf to be used as hair dye. He advised that the leaves were to be boiled in a lye solution in order to “maketh the hair black”.

7. Unripe blackberries are red, not green

Blackberry fruit are red in colour, rather than green, before they are ripe. There is an old expression that “blackberries are red when they’re green”.

8. Their purple colour is said to represent Christ’s blood

Tradition also claims that the blackberry’s deep purple colour represents Christ’s blood and the crown of thorns was made of brambles.

9. Bramble branches can cure hernias and boils

According to English folklore, passing under the archway formed by a bramble branch can cure hernias, ruptures, pimples and boils. This has also been used as a remedy for “downer” cows, cows that for whatever reason are unable to stand.

10. Don’t mistake them for the black raspberry!

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The blackberry should not be confused with the black raspberry, which looks almost identical. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the core. Blackberries will always have a white core, with part of the stem still attached, whereas black raspberries are hollow in the center as the stem is left behind when picked. Black raspberries are a treat to find though – they are less tart than blackberries and make excellent jams.

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