Although the word sounds like it, batology actually has nothing whatsoever to do with bats. The study of bats is known as chiropterology (derived from the Ancient Greek words for "hand" and "wing"). Instead, batology refers to the study of brambles, the prickly shrubs that produce blackberries ("báton" is the Ancient Greek word for blackberry). Although often a nuisance to people, these shrubs are extremely important for wildlife thanks to the shelter and food they provide.
There are hundreds of blackberry species and they grow all over the world, primarily in temperate regions. They are best picked from late summer through mid-autumn and are an extremely popular foraged fruit. Blackberries are high in antioxidants and fiber and they are packed with vitamins C, B, and K, as well as potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Their flavor can range from tart to sweet, depending on the variety, time of year, and weather.
In addition to their nutritional value, blackberries have long played a role in traditional medicine. Various parts of the plant have been used to relieve bowel issues, fever, and gout problems. There is even evidence that they can increase the production of breast milk.
In praise of batology:
- Botanically, blackberries are not actually berries. Instead, they are an aggregate fruit composed of tiny sections known as drupelets.
- Brambles are featured in the traditional fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty." They surround the castle where the princess is cursed to sleep for a hundred years.
- Blackberries can be used to make a variety of tasty treats, including blackberry crumble, blackberry pie, blackberry pudding, and blackberry jam. If you live somewhere where they grow wild, you can pick them to your heart's content without paying a penny – just watch out for the prickly parts of the brambles!