For Love of Blackberry

When we moved back to the Missouri house in January, I was excited to be back to our land abundant (OK overrun) by wild blackberries. There are so many here that we can probably only access 1/4-1/3 of them.  

I had originally been thinking that we would have sold the house and we would have moved by the time the fall rolled around...which meant I would miss the root harvest of these amazing plants.

I had gotten busy and the plants went to flower before I could harvest the leaf and then I eagerly awaited the delicious fruit. I was not left disappointed and, as we always did, I invited other families out to enjoy the blessings of Pachamama.

Well, here we are, November, and we are still in the MO house...house is still for sale. But I got to harvest my roots.

For those new to plant medicine, the leaves AND the roots are medicinal (as well as the berries being healthy for us). They both contain tannins, which are astringent...meaning it will help tighten loose tissues.

The root has more tannins than the leaf and is best harvested when the energy of the plant has retreated back to the roots...so the fall. I recommend harvesting both leaf and root if you can.

This astringency makes this root extremely desirable in cases of diarrhea. With the stomach bug season upon us, this root needs to be present in your apothecary. NEED. Not over-exaggerating at all. We have already had to use this root since harvesting when we got hit with the worst stomach bug in the history of our family.

All harvesting starts with asking the plants permission. This doesn't always result in an audible yes or no, but sometimes just a feeling that you should move on...or that you can stay.  Harvesting ends with giving thanks and an offering of some sort. Tobacco is common but it can be crystals, some hair...something that represents your thanks.

blackberry root harvest

Blackberry root spreads out and because it can thrive in clay/rocky soil, it can be difficult to harvest. Don't give up if the first section of berries is just a little too hard for your shovel. Its also important that you ensure that the root you are harvesting is actually the blackberry root...and not from a plant by it. This can be done by digging out wide and following the root from the base to the end. If you aren't sure, don't use it.

blackberry root harvest

Once you harvest what you would like, rinse of the roots. This can be done in a river near you, from your rain water barrel, hose, or kitchen sink. This is just to remove as much dirt as you can.

Then cut the root on an angle in small 1-2 inch portions. Place on a dehydrator and dry on the lowest setting. Store in an airtight container away from light. 

When it comes time to use, the root is used in a decoction. A decoction is where you put the root/seed/bark in water, bring to a boil, and then steep for 20 minutes. Strain and drink throughout the day as needed. Can sweeten with honey if desired.

Leaves are easier to harvest as you don't have to dig but don't take all the leaves from one plant. Dry them on the lowest setting in a dehydrator or on a drying screen in a cool, dry area. If using leaves, an infusion is best. Steep 1-2 tsp dried leaf (double that if fresh) in 1 cup water for 15 minutes. Strain, sweeten if desired, and enjoy throughout the day.

When the stomach bug hits, I recommend brewing a quart of the infusion/decoction so that you don't have to repeatedly make it throughout the day. I also add Oregon grape root but that is another post.