Blackberry is hardy to USDA zones 5-9. It can grow to be 5-9 feet tall and 9 feet wide. Blackberry grows best in full sun and in soil that has a pH level ranging between 6.0-7.0. The soil needs to be organic and well-drained. If clay soil is used, organic mulch or rich compost should be added to increase the nutrient content of the plant. Blackberry should not be planted in areas where vegetables or fruit plants were established before, nor should it be planted by wild blackberry bushes. They should be planted at least 300 feet away from raspberries in order to reduce the risk of contracting diseases. Blackberries should be planted 5-6 feet apart. They should be watered regularly and during the day. For the first 2-3 weeks, the top inch of the soil should remain moist. Since the roots of the plant are short, the top 6 inches of the soil should never dry out. After the first three weeks, the plant should be given 1-2 inches of watering per week. During harvest time, blackberries need to be watered with 4 inches of watering every week (2).
If the color of the blackberries turns orange, then they have been infected by a fungus and should be removed immediately (1). The first year canes that grow in the blackberry bush should remain untouched. During the summer, the top 3 inches of the canes should be pruned off and the second year canes should be removed after they have finished fruiting. After the first year, a 10-10-10 nitrogen fertilizer should be added to enrich the soil but should not be applied near the roots of the canes. It takes about 3 years for a blackberry bush to fully establish itself in the soil and to produce a large quantity of berries. The blackberries should be harvested in the morning when it is cool and dry. They are the most ripe and should be easy to pluck when they have softened a little and become less shiny. (2).
Medicinal/Culinary uses of Blackberry:
Blackberries are very high in Vitamin C and very low in sodium. Their dark blue color means that the fruits contain high levels of antioxidants. The consumption of blackberries can lead to younger-looking skin since the berries contain chemicals that cause the skin to tighten. Consuming blackberries can also improve memory and help the brains stay active. Blackberries have a high tannin count. Hence, they have the ability to lower intestinal inflammation and treat hemorrhoids as well as diarrhea. Blackberries’ tannin content also makes them a good ingredient to be used in mouthwashes. Blackberry juice has vitamin K, which can help muscles relax, and is drunk by women to treat labor pains. The juice also encourages blood clotting and can be used to regulate menstrual cycles (1). Blackberries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that can render cancer causing agents inert.
The leaves and bark from blackberry plants are also medicinally useful. The leaves can be used to brew a tea that has a therapeutic effect. Since the tea has a bitter flavor, honey or other types of sweetener can be added to reduce the bitterness. Blackberries are used to make wine, liqueurs, and a type of drink called brombeer wasser in Germany(8). They are also used to make jams, preserves, or syrups (5).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Blackberry plants are native to Europe. It is the state fruit of Alabama. In Mexico, the leaves of blackberry plants are used to treat gum inflammation, ulcers in the mouth, or sore throats (6). Blackberries can be used to dye clothing or yarn into a lavender or purple shade. The Cherokee used blackberries to treat diarrhea. They used the roots from blackberry plants to make a tea that can minimize swelling in joints and tissues. The Cherokee also made a tonic out of blackberry leaves that can stimulate the body. They would chew on fresh leaves to treat bleeding gums (3). The Chippewa cooked blackberries and flattened them on birch bark to store for later. The Hoh and Quileute Indians used to create a stew out of the berries (7). Blackberry is a symbol for death, pain, remorse, grief, and lowliness in Europe. However, it also stands as a symbol of God’s voice and divine love to the Hebrews. In England, it is believed that blackberries should not be eaten after Michaelmas Day because that is the day in which the devil was casted out of heaven and fell on a blackberry bush. So every year on October 11th, it is thought that the devil spits on the berries and curses them (8). In the Mid-Mediterranean area, the people believe that the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ was made out of blackberry runners, and the color of the berries is representative of his blood. In Europe, the berries are alleged to have ties with Wiccan culture (9).
- Simms, Dileen. "The Blackberry 10 (Must-Know Facts About The Fruit)." The Huffington Post. N.p., 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/31/blackberry-facts_n_2581622.html>.
- "Blackberry Care Instructions." Blackberry Care Instructions. Arbor Day Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.arborday.org/trees/fruit/care-blackberry.cfm>.
- "Cherokee Medicinal Herbs." Cherokee Medicinal Herbs. Cherokee Nation, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/CherokeeMedicinalHerbs.aspx>.
- "Common Blackberry." Why Go Wild. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://whygowild.com/en/wild-plants-database/common-blackberry>.
- "Blackberries." : Planting, Growing and Harvesting Blackberry Bushes. Yankee Publishing, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.almanac.com/plant/blackberries>.
- Torres, Eliseo, and Timothy L. Sawyer. "Glossary of Herbs." Healing with Herbs and Rituals: A Mexican Tradition. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico, 2006. 122. Print.
- "Southern Dewberry. Zarzamora, Blackberry." Blackberries. The University of Texas at Austin, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/coast/nature/images/blackberry.html>.
- Eland, Sue C. "Blackberry." Plant Biographies. N.p., 2008. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.plantlives.com/docs/R/Rubus_fruticosus.pdf>.
- Alexander, Courtney. "Berries as Symbols and In Folklore." New York Berry News 6 (24 Jan. 2007): 11. New York Berry News. Cornell University. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. < http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/nybn/newslettpdfs/2007/nybn61a.pdf >.