Friday, 17 August 2018

Bramble leaf tea, nature's hidden gem

Blackberry bramble leaf. Picture from https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

Now everybody knows about the fruit of the bramble, the delicious blackberry, but few know that this plant provides far more than just one of your five-a-day.

To look at brambles they are long, straggly and covered in thorns with leaves that look like they'd sting you like a nettle. It can be quite hard to believe that they belong to the same family as roses. In reality these hedgerow staples are one of the hidden treasures in our countryside.

Whilst blackberries are well known for the nutrients they provide, the leaves of the bramble are just as packed full of goodness, the most common way of which to enjoy is via bramble tea.

Table of contents

Health benefits

Botanically known as Rubus fruticosus, the bramble has been used as a medicinal aid for centuries. It has a strong astringency, meaning that it helps dry and tighten, alleviating mouth ulcers, sort throats, gastrointestinal problems, sore throats, gingivitis, and bleeding gums. It's also packed with vitamin C and antioxidants and has detoxifying properties.

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How to enjoy bramble leaves

The best way to enjoy the benefits of the bramble is to use the leaves to make a herbal tea that is uncannily similar in taste to Earl Grey. It's leaves can also be added to soups, roasts, stir-fries, and nettle soup amongst other uses.

Whilst the leaves can be eaten raw, they can be bitter to taste, especially the older and rougher leaves. Indeed the younger leaves are the best to pick, especially as the thorns on the underside of the stem of the leaves are still soft allowing them to be more easily used in food.

For a herbal tea the firmness of the thorns isn't an issue unless you intend to consume the leaves as well. The small thorns can always be sliced off anyways.

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How to collect

It may seem pretty obvious how to collect bramble leaves, however there are few things you should know:

  • Find a bramble away from roads and highways that have quite a bit of traffic, such as along a river or country lane. The fumes from vehicles pollute hedgerows and plants.
  • If you're not fond of getting jagged by thorns, wearing suitable gloves would be a good idea for picking bramble leaves. It is also a good idea if the bramble is amongst nettles!
  • Pick the youngest, greenest leaves, which usually appear from spring to the end of the summer.
  • Give the leaves and shoots a shake to dislodge and insects that may be on them.
  • Pick them off where the leaf stem connects to the branch, don't break the stem/branch itself.
  • Respect nature. Don't pick all your leaves from the one bramble. The leaves are also food for other animals, and are also needed to help provide the bramble with energy for growing its berries. Indeed as brambles are so widespread across the whole of the UK and Ireland, you can easily pick a few from one and a few more from another without doing any harm.
  • Pick them as you need them. During the spring and summer there is no need to mass collect leaves especially if you don't intend to use them soon or that much. Their nutritional value will also decrease over time once picked, and fresher is always better.
  • Once home, give the leaves a good rinse to remove any pollutants or insects that may still be on them.

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How to make bramble leaf tea

Whilst you can easily buy bramble tea, it is quite simple to make your own and only takes 10-15 minutes:

  • Pick a small handful of leaves. Four or five would suffice for a small cup of tea. A few more for a bigger cup.
  • Fold the leaves up in your hand to help soften them and help release their nutrients, and place into your mug.
  • Pour in your hot water (close to boiling temperature) and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • You should see the water eventually turn a cloudy green colour.
  • Using a jug and a sieve pour your cup of herbal tea into the jug via the sieve so it can collect the leaves.
  • Pour the jug back into your cup and enjoy!
  • If you wish to, you can also nibble of the leaves.

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Storing bramble leaves

The best way to store bramble leaves for long-term use is to remove those with signs of disease or rot and drying them out then placing in an airtight glass jar placed into a dark cupboard. Drying them out also helps increase their shelf-life and slows down the oxidative process to a halt.

For shorter term, such as a few days or a week, simply kept in an airtight tub in the fridge works fine.

One way to dry leaves out include:

  • Having washed the leaves, gently pat them dry and then let them air dry.
  • Tie the leaves by their stems into bunches and leaving them to hang in a dry place such as an airing cupboard for a week. 
  • Check frequently for any with signs of mould, which should be thrown out. This also means that you need to put them somewhere drier. 
  • After a week the leaves should be able to crumble in your fingers when pressed. Ensure that they are all dry.
  • Once they are dried gently remove the leaves from their stems and store them whole in an airtight glass jar placed into a cool, dark, and dry place, and use when needed.

Another, and faster, way to dry them out is to use an oven:

  • Having washed the leaves, gently pat them dry and then let them air dry.
  • Put on a non-stick oven sheet and set the temperature to 80 Cยบ.
  • Let them bake for about 2 hours.
  • As above, once they are dried gently remove the leaves from their stems and store in an airtight glass jar placed into a cool, dark, and dry place. To make a tea, simply use a spoonful of crumbled leaves when required.

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Closing thoughts

As you can see there is a lot more to the wild bramble than simply providing us juicy blackberries. Its leaves provide us with a great array of benefits that can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, most notably as a herbal tea. Hopefully this has helped encourage you to partake in a bit of foraging and self-sufficiency. This whole post was written whilst I enjoyed a nice big brew of bramble tea and I hope you enjoy it too.

Lyle Richardson,
Gym Pal - Unlock Your Potential

4 comments:

  1. Thank you. Exactly what I was looking for. Off to dry some bramble leaves.

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  2. Another way to dry them is to place them in a clean dry cloth ( after washing ) set the folded cloth on top of your radiator when your heating is on.

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  3. How long will bramble leaves last once dried and stored in a jar?

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    Replies
    1. The following link provides a good answer for your question:

      https://now.tufts.edu/articles/tea-storage-length-time-fresh-nutrients

      Sorry HTML is disabled so you will have to copy and paste the link. In short: If properly dried out and stored the quality of tea leaves should last for a good 2 years.

      However with the abundance of bramble growing every year you only really need to store them for over winter and spring until they start growinng again as fresher is always better.

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