If you have been watching the new series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here their kind of foraging for free food is not quite what we had in mind.
For hundreds of years we have relied on foraging from our hedgerows and woodlands for seasonal fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbs for the cooking and preserving pot.
Since the introduction of hydroponics and air transport, fruit that has been unattainable for the majority of the year is now available all year around. Fruits and vegetables that would otherwise not be seen on UK shelves is now available for us to eat and enjoy all year around.
Some of us like to eat fruit and vegetables according to the seasons, but whether you are trying to save money, sample the good life, be self sufficient and eat wild food, always do your homework and study the plants you pick before including them in any drinks, jams, pickles, cooking pots, stews or pies! With the changing weather over the next week you will also need to be quick and grab what’s out there before the snow covers it all.
A beautiful vintage picture of Mushrooms. Image from Petitpoulailler
After doing a little reading I found that the top 10 foraging foods in the UK are Mushrooms, Wild Garlic, Elder, Nettles, Dandelion, Hawthorne, Berries, Nuts, Mallow and for those that fancy getting wet feet, Seaweed!
Identification of the gathered produce is highly important. If you eat the wrong thing it maybe fatal, as in the case of mixing up a Death Cap mushroom with a Field mushroom.
What should you do when picking:-
1. Take a bag/box/basket with you to put the food into.
2. Take a guide book to identify the food.
3. For smaller berries it maybe easier to take a comb or berry picker.
4. Don’t strip a plant bare; leave some fruit on the bush for the wildlife to eat.
5. Once at home wash the food and cook where necessary before eating.
6. Gather fruit from waist height.
7. Avoid gathering fruit that is dirty, polluted and from road edges.
Always be sure to know what you are picking. Until you are confident in picking the right things take pictures will you, or attend a specialist one day course that can show you what to look for and where.
After foraging in the hedgerows last year and picking Sloe berries to make Sloe Gin, I looked around my garden to see if I could gather something a little closer to home.
I knew I had a grape vine in the greenhouse, and lots of mint in the garden, but to my amazement (and pointed out by my neighbour) I had a small Japonica quince bush. The bush which I had ignored the previous Summer, bares small fruit that looks similar to an apple.
After a little encouragement from a friend I found a recipe on Hedgerow Harvest, picked the fruit and decided to make some Quince Jelly.
A Japonica bush with ripe fruit
Chopping the Quince and discarding the seeds, preparing the fruit for the boiling pot
Ta Dah! My first every Quince Jelly…delicious!
Quince Jelly can be used to accompany cheese or meats such as pork. It has an unusual flavour; my personal favourite is a spoonful dolloped on the top of my home made rice pudding. Once bottled the Quince Jelly makes a perfect home made Christmas gift.
If you go out into your garden or the countryside today, what will you be making from your foraging adventure this winter?
Images by Claire Middleton