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Thread: Bramble cane pith - Is it a carbohydrate?

  1. #1
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    Default Bramble cane pith - Is it a carbohydrate?

    Hi All,

    I've been trying to find out about bramble cane pith.
    I've looked in various old books I have and all over the web, but there's no information regarding it.

    The only thing I can find is that the young shoots are edible.

    I wondered if anyone knew if the pith was carbohydrate? It looks and feels like it has the potential, and it tastes okay, if a little spongey.

    Image if it is. That'd be a great supply!

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    An interesting idea for sure! I'm curious about the answer.

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    So I've still been searching, whilst all the time thinking I'd need to find a friendly biology lab to test some pith I could take in.
    Well after reading lots of the same stuff where basically the whole Internet just copied someone else's information. I finally found a scientific paper with one small sentence saying the dried pith showed starch in the iodine-starch test. So I looked this up and guys, this test is going to be so useful for bushcrafters. Just search it on YouTube to see the videos. You drop iodine solution on anything, and if it contains starch, it'll go blue/black in colour! Anyway I've ordered some solution, so I'll see what happens.

  4. #4
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    Can't see it being. Think on it, the growing part is the skin, the inner is the stabilising for the stem and the growing tips.
    Some plants have a carbohydrate rich area just inside the growing tip, the flowering parts, etc.,
    If that's the 'starch' part that your test reveals then it's only the growing tip….the bit we already know is edible. Nutrients for brambles are unlikely to be stored in the stem pith when the growth is mainly annual and fruit bearing, or certainly not much human available nutrient, iimmc.

    Thing is too that pith as it ages becomes structural rather than just water or nutrient carrying. Airspaces form within it and it becomes rigid. Bramble is a pain to deal with anyway, stripping off the bark for cordage is a logistical nightmare (cut it to 2m lengths, wear gloves….stout ones that you don't mind disposing off if they become full of spines). Doing it to obtain the pith is only worth it if you're going to that effort for cordage.
    Food value has to be greater than the effort involved in procuring it to be worthwhile.

    I suspect that the edible tips of the brambles, and the fruits (or leaves for tea) are it really.
    Interesting topic though

    Be careful of the iodine, the damned stuff sublimates like crazy and will escape from anything that isn't incredibly well sealed. It stains everything brown….don't ask how I know….but mine is now stored inside sealed small lab bottles inside a larger sealed tub….which has itself now gone brown.

    M
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  5. #5
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    From my understanding so far, it appears that the pith seems to act as a holding/transferring sponge for the starch, as opposed to the pith itself truly being the starch itself.
    You're right. To just extract the pith for no other reason is quite a bit of work, though I do seem to end up with quite a pile of it when I've stripped a few canes down for cordage.
    What I've found works quite nicely is to split a bendy stick in half and loop it back on itself, using my finger an thumb to pressurise it to the different widths, and it strips the thorns really quickly without needing gloves.

    Thanks for the iodine advice. I know it's good for cuts, but didn't know it was one of the escape artists.
    You've just reminded me of an old forester guy who was on a Swedish trip a few years ago and we were dogsledding. He had a load of whisky in a metal bottle and it leaked over EVERYTHING he had!

  6. #6
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    Toddy the Wise answered one of my longest unabswered question I have never asked anybody!

    So that is the reason tips of trees, the shoots of grasses and bushes, ( Asparagus! Bamboo!) is edible!

    Back to question: even if it contains some simple carbohydrates - sugar, it does not mean it is edible. Not if you want to gain Energy.

    It is not a depot of carbohydrates.

  7. #7
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    "It is not a depot of carbohydrates."

    Summed up with a few choice words


    Using the folded stick works Jampan, and it works effectively, but every stroke risks those blasted tiny wee thorns. Its like nettles and the advice to just grasp them firmly it's not as though we don't have gloves, or a heavy cloth, or the like.
    I know we 'can' do it, but I'd really rather not have sore hands for days over a few moments inattention. Stripping bramble leaves and shoots is right up there with the nettles for me.

    Each to their own though.

    M
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  8. #8
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    True enough on the usefulness of carbs . I did think if it was loaded with useful carbs it would have ended up as a proper staple thousands of years ago like wheat and rice. Useful to know though what has starch though, especially if it's going into the fire anyway.

    Like you say, the gloves or canvas method is a better way of keeping unprickled hands. I just found it pesky to double back over with the knife afterwards to get rid of the remaining bumps.
    Because there's so many around me I think I get a bit obsessed with tinkering with them.
    I even had the idea of making various shaped holes in my walking staff to just drag them through, and hold a knife to the back edge to split them at the same time.

    I have two future plans to have a go at prepping them like flax/nettles to see if it'll spin down nicely as a cloth to weave.

    Also by all accounts the leaves can make tobacco which might be an interesting test, though looking at how tobacco is smoked and processed, it looks like a long job for something which has a high chance of becoming compost.

    All keeps me out of trouble though.

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    You can prepare tobacco and other smokeable leaves the oldfashined way. Ferment, dry.
    According to dad his dad used to prepare various leaves during WW2 when tobacco was unavailable.

    You can make a half decent tea from the leaves.

  10. #10
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    I've drunk the green leaf tea and I quite enjoy the almost bubblegum aftertaste once the astringency has subsided.

    Do you know what method of fermentation is used? I'd definitely be interested in trying it. Also to know the other leaves used too?

    If anyone knows any more bramble related usefulness I'm all ears.

  11. #11

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    Brambles make very strong cordage, but as you say a swine to harvest and prep. Cant remember where I saw it now, but the best method I saw for removing the spines was to punch a rough hole in an old tin can, appropriately sized for the bramble stem. The feed the stem into the hole from inside the tin, and pull through from the protruding end. The prickles are stripped off and caught in the tin. Et voila - a small stringed instrument

    Cheers, Bob
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    I do not know, but will look on the net. Being on the other side of Atlantic I get other results when searching.

    I recall he also said his dad used the little tobacco he got he used to favour it with.

    Edit: just an article:
    https://www.cigarworld.com/#

    Did not direct properly, but under the headline 'education' there is an article called Cigar tobacco curing and fermentation
    Last edited by Janne; 18-06-2017 at 16:32.

  13. #13
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    Plant growth is a predictable series of events.
    First, the living cells grow and divide, grow and divide. Such as happens at both the shoot tip and the root tip.
    Second, some cells remain to divide while the others grow, expand, enlarge, elongate as fiber.
    Third, once expanded, the final features to make the cells functional in the plant life are developed.

    In most cases, most cells do develop a few starch grains composed of digestable carbohydrate (amylose & amylopectin glucose polymers.)
    Practically every living cell has a starch grain or two as a carb/energy reserve.

    In bramble stem, some of the surface layers elongate tremendously = fiber.
    The rest of the stem keeps up with a great deal more brick-like divisions.
    Some puff up with great size and little substance = pith.

    Shoot tips of many plant species are considered nutritious (asparagus) until they begin to mature.
    Cell enlargement and functional changes will render them tough with indigestible cellulose (woody) fiber.

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    I used to grow and elongate, these days I just expand and enlarge!

    The woody/ fibrous end of the Asparagus is excellent to make a soup of. Boil, whizz, a bit of light roux, salt&peppa.

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    I confess to making asparagus pizza with a mustard sauce over a puff pastry crust.
    Later this afternoon, I'll go into my grape vines and harvest maybe 2 dozen shoot tips to be steamed with supper.
    Tabouleh wrapped in a fresh young grape leaf is a Lebanese treat.

    What you really need to forage for are carbohydrate storage organs of plants such as tubers, corms & bulbs.
    Anything and everything else is an energetic waste to harvest and eat.
    Artificial selection over many thousands of years has crafted all kinds of big carbo loads that we can eat.

    Bramble pith should have less nutritional value than packing beans shaped from foamed starch.
    In terms of form and function, look over some writings about the plant cell type = parenchyma.

  16. #16
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    I think I'm living more on hope that this pith can be a useful edible by-product, though all of you here who know more about plant biology than me are pretty convinced it'll come to nothing. I have to admit I'm higher up the craftsman tree than botanist tree which is more at sapling stage.

    Bobnewboy. I like the can idea. I'm going to find a tiny can of something and give that a go!

    Janne. I've had a look at that link and a few others now. I'll give it a go, but I'm pretty sure I'll be making compost by the sounds of it. Worth a shot though.

  17. #17
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    The best you can fo is stop smoking, but you have been nagged almost to death about that...
    I stopped 1.5 years ago. Still miss it.

    You could do half arsed thing though. Dry the leaves, then mix them with tobacco.

  18. #18
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    To be honest I'm not really a smoker. I can take it or leave it. But I'll cadge the odd rolly when I'm sat around a fire with the guys.

    It's more about the challenge of being able to make things for me.
    I rarely drink too, but I can make some pretty decent country wines. My wife loves my dandelion wine. I like my elderberry wine which tends to be quite like port once it's aged for a while.
    I've also made soap from cow fat for years. A friend of a friend rears his own cow every so often so I can get a massive supply of good quality fat when it's killing time.

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