Whilst skimming along a canal in Oxfordshire with my brother, his wife and their new (boat-shaped) home, the hedgerows all along are full of edible fruits. Ann Marie shared with me her recipe for mixed hedgerow jam.
Take a selection of some (or all) of the following – Rosehips, Haws (hawthorn fruit), Blackberries, Crab Apples (roughly chopped), Sloes, Damsons, Rowan, Elderberries. Place the fruit in a jamming pan (or huge saucepan) and cover three quarters with water. Heat until simmering, then cook slowly until mushy, stirring occasionally. Drip thorugh a jelly cloth overnight. Measure the liquid into a clean pan and add 1lb sugar to each 1 pint of juice. Boil until setting point is reached, then pour into sterilised jars.
If made with just red fruit (rowan, rosehips, haws) and crab apples this makes a beautiful clear dark pinkish jelly. Adding darker fruits will make a darker jelly. Ann Marie used the sloes lately strained from her Sloe Gin – I think that will make delicious jelly!
I came across another example of the value of a mental ‘food map’ this week. Lots of people have been ‘boasting’ about their plum and damson crops and I was just a little jealous! Whilst I have lots of apple and pear trees the plum tree on my allotment is bare : (. But I remembered a couple of years ago picking plums at the edge of a footpath in area of town that no longer forms part of any of my daily journeys. So trekked over to the area with a big bag and picked loads and loads and loads of damsons. Of course I needed have bothered, cos as soon as my friends heard that I didn’t have any I was quickly given two carrier bags of damsons and one of beautiful Victoria plums!!
Another friend sent me the a link to the following blog http://www.cottagesmallholder.com which contains a receipe for Damson Vodka, as long as I promised to give her a small bottle when its finished (I did just happen to have a big bottle of vodka – as you do!) But then she got in touch a couple of days ago to say she had found a tree near to her andwould be making her own, so I don’t need to share!
I had a great day out at Carsington Water this week, and on my cycle around the (severly depleated) reseviour, I stopped along the way every so often and picked hazel nuts. Like looking for stars in the twilight, at first you can’t see them at all, but then you see one and then a couple more and then you realise the tree is full of them! Of course they are not ripe yet, but leave them much longer and the squirrels will have had them all! In fact on one tree they had all fallen and lots had been eaten by mice, but I picked what I could as these were much bigger and more like cob nuts.
For me, the best way to enjoy them, is hazelnut meringue, see post a couple of years ago for the receipe (Oct 2009) , but why not give hazelnut butter a go – an alternative to peanut butter! Dry fry 300g of shelled nuts for between 5 and 10 mins, shaking continuously to ensure they are evenly browned. Grind with a pestle and motar, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 sugar and very gradually add up to 1/2 tblsp vegetable oil until the butter becomes smooth. Store in jars and it will last for sometime in the fridge.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of days in the North Yorkshire Moors – the top left hand corner where it is nearly the Lake District, and unlike home in Derbyshire where it has been very dry and all the grass is parched and brown, the fields were lush and green like spring – it didn’t quite rain on us, but it was a ‘bit damp’!
As I tramped about in the hills I was amazed at the amount of chickweed, all fresh and green and just like spring, we were cooking on an open fire (beautiful simple camp site) so I could easily have gathered and cooked it very gently for just a few minutes (better if I had been able to add some chopped spirng onions or chives) with a little butter (no water) and just a squirt of lemon (or some sorrel if you find some of that as well)
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to camp out on Friay night in the Derbyshire Dales and he following morning I took myself off for a walk up the nearest ‘Edge’ and had a mind to pick bilberries for breakfast and hopefully bring some home for putting in a pie!
I have to say I wasn’t disappointed by the walk – it was beautiful, the braken smelt wonderful, the views clear and far – I even found lots of tiny upland sorrel which tasted fantastically fresh, but sadly I was very disappointed by the bilberries – I found only 1 tiny patch which had been pretty much picked clear and I picked only 8 berries : (.
Thus is proved the point of making some sort of ‘food map’ there are plenty of other bits of the Dales where I know or sure there are plenty of bilberry bushes and so as this is the right time, maybe I should head out that way again!
My good friend and fellow forager Ian was running a Wild Food Walk for Rhubarb Farm (http://18.104.22.168/rhubarb_farm/) and we went for a recci visit.
Now I tend to think of mid summer as being pretty lean for wild food – the spring leaves are no longer fresh and the autumn berries aren’t ready yet. On a small bit of scrubby ground and some hedgerow we were very easily able to spot 20 or so edible plants. Hazel nuts waiting ripen, first blackberries, some raspberries, elderberries (not ripe yet), some rowan. We also spotted loads of leaves to point out – dandelion, nettle, rosebay willowherb, yarrow, coltsfoot, red and white deadnettle, comfry and many more.
What there was most of were many different plants from the Goosefoot family – Fat Hen, Good King Henry,Orache, Red Goosefoot – I would agree with Roger Phillips who says ‘the plants and leaves are very variable and it may prove difficult to differentiate between species’ Whether you know which of the goosefoot family you are eating or not, they all taste great and are well worth picking and taking home for dinner.
I was at a meeting the other evening and had to pop out to take a phone call. As I wondered about outside in the ‘garden’ of the hall where the meeting was being held I was delighted to find a couple of wild (or stray) raspberries bushes full of fruit. I picked them and shared them when the call was over.
Wild raspberry bushes are all over, on country lanes and also in hedges in urban areas, the sort of places where you would find blackberry brambles. Easy to identify once they are in fruit, they can be hidden by now by tall nettles or cow parsley, so best to identify their location earlier on.
They won’t be the huge perfect raspberries that you buy in the shops, but they will taste amazing! My best summer fruit recipe is both easy and impressive. Whisk 1/2 pint double cream and gradually add 5 oz caster sugar until cream is standing in peaks (but has not tunred to butter!). Chuck in about 1lb raspberries (or as many as you have)an fold them in – save any really good looking ones for decoration. Serve in your prettiest bowl (or individual dishes – this receipe will do 6 servings).