Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  My mother asserts that Blackberry Week was a school holiday in late September or early October when she was a youngster in Hylton (near Sunderland), circa 1930.  Probably equivalent to half-term now.  Children were expected to pick the ‘free’ fruit to be made into jam, etc., ‘so that it wasn’t wasted’ [Havering, Essex, June 2015].

2.  When I was a child about 60 years go we were told not to pick and eat blackberries after the 15th September as they were then regarded as devil’s berries [Christchurch, Dorset, September 2014].

3.  Aldershot, Hampshire, 1940-50] Don’t eat blackberries after 31st October, it is called devil’s fruit [South London Botanical Institute, June 2014].

4.  My Grandma used to make blackberry vinegar. I had a bad chest so I was made to drink it – it was awful, made one feel really sick [Tamworth, Staffordshire, June 2012].

5. ‘In Ireland, in the 1940s, they used to crawl under bramble arches to get good luck playing cards. Before a big card-party they would do it.’
‘But weren’t they afraid of being carried away by the Devil?’
‘They didn’t mind about that; they just wanted the money.’
[Brompton Cemetery, London, June 2010].

6. The Devil kisses blackberries on Hallowe’en [Covent Garden, London, October 2009].

7. Is it Michaelmas yet? You’re not supposed to eat blackberries after Michaelmas [London, SW1, September 2009].

8.  My mother used to keep a store of blackberry vinegar in the pantry that she made every autumn to ease sore throats and coughs.  This was in the 1960s, and it was something I did when my own children were little in the 1980s, and is something I do now when I have the time because it is so delicious.   We also used it with sugar on Yorkshire pudding, pancakes and steamed batter pudding.
Blackberry vinegar:   Soak one and a half pounds of blackberries in one pint malt vinegar for two days.  Mash and strain.  Add one pound sugar to every one pint liquid.  Boil till thick and bottle [Northamptonshire, June 2008].

9.  Blackberries were witches’ food after October [Kingston, Kent, January 2004].

10. As children in south Wales – Glamorgan – we used to peel the young stems of bramble and eat them. We called them pork [Tooting Common, London, June 2002].

11. To cure boils: take a piece of bramble an inch or two long, remove the outside skin and any prickles, and chew it. Gypsy remedy, west Cornwall, 1990 [Marazion, Cornwall, October 1996].

12. Blackberry: the leaves were supposed to cure scour in cattle [Lenamore, Co. Longford, April 1991].

Selected from approximately 100 items on bramble in Plant-lore Archive.

Image: Stamford Hill station, London Borough of Hackney; July 2014.