Towards the end of August, we delightedly set out into Stanfree Valley on a mission to forage upon the fruits of (very) early autumn. The first of the pickings were blackberries, which we made full use of at home – Blackberry crumble is amazing using freshly gathered berries. Some berries were portioned up and directly frozen.
In 2020, we identified locations where field mushrooms were growing. We revisited the fields and to our surprise (underneath the long grass), some lovely young field mushrooms were acquired and later cooked to accompany pasta.
Caution: Please be careful when identifying and collecting wild mushrooms, some are extremely poisonous.
We then noticed three Crab apple (gorgeous) trees on Oxcroft. Using a few books, we were able to research (The National Trust Hedgerow Cookbook) the ideal method of preservation. Within one hour, we made delicious Crab Apple Jam.
On a walk over sunny banks, we collected a few pounds of Sloe berries for our winter beverage (Sloes, Sugar and Vodka). Some more, larger wild apples were accrued as unspoiled wind fall.
A friend of ours allowed us to visit his garden to collect a bagful of pears, some were pickled in cider vinegar and some were diced, portioned and frozen.
The wild rose is an underestimated hedgerow fruit, containing lots of vitamins. It was an important source of Vitamin C during World War Two. The hip of the Dog Rose (named after its historic use to treat bites from rabid dogs, hence its name Rosa Canina) is quite tricky to obtain. Its spiky foliage can certainly bite! Gloves are essential when picking the fruit.
Be aware – The berries CANNOT be eaten raw and have an irritant effect if not handled suitably.
We considered Rosehip wine and jelly, but our preferred recipe was Rosehip syrup. This is a versatile and sweet sauce to store in the cupboard.
On a short trip outside the village, we pursued the quest for sweet chestnuts. Some nuts were saved for sowing locally and we are currently investigating ideas to store them for eating later on in the year.
Making jam and preserves isn’t that difficult; don’t be swamped under by too much information. There are lots of books, holding countless recipes for free autumn fruit. Let them be guidelines. A good quality, thick metal based pan is essential but it’s a bit like bucket chemistry (sugar and a lemon required).
Be careful to identify the right fruit, cook thoroughly and transfer into sterilized receptacles.
Enjoy and stay safe.
Love from Stanfree Valley