Sloe gin and rosehip tea

Blackberry and apple crumble. Blackberry and apple with cream or yoghurt in a bowl. Blackberry and apple mousse.

Pies. Tarts. Turnovers. Pancakes. Smoothies.

Having denuded the local field edges and footpaths of kilos of fruit – and the apples came free too, they are falling out of the hedgerows round here – we’ve been giving every blackberry recipe we can think of a pretty good workout recently. And repeat it all again for wild plums.

But we’re not quite at the year’s end yet – never fear, the freezer’s loaded up with fruit too – and the prospect of home-made blackberry and apple waffles is drawing us out on one final picking mission.

We tried eschewing the hedgerow apples in favour of commercially-grown Bramleys just to see what the difference would be. And, you know what? They were not so good. There was something missing, a tartness, a certain acidity that really seemed to be making a difference to dishes made from hand-picked and scrounged fruit.

Or maybe it was just the sweet taste of eating for free.

Having collected a pound and a half of sloes alongside the blackberries, plums and apples, the requirement to have a go at sloe gin really was nagging at us. So they were all pricked with the business end of a cheese knife and popped into a gin bottle alongside an outrageous amount of sugar that formed a kind of a lunar landscape at the bottom of the bottle. We’re watching that with interest. It has, at least, turned a lovely purple colour, as advertised.

Experiences with making our own rosehip tea have not necessarily been so successful. We’ve gathered the hips off our own Rugosa bushes, and found them sweet and juicy and smelling divine. We’ve dried them then put them through the food processor for chopping.

And here’s the problem, well-known to anyone who has ever had any dealings with rosehips. The tiny hairs inside used to be used in the production of itching powder. They are a profound irritant, to both the skin and the digestion.

Having sieved these out and washed them thoroughly the fruit is now in a jar awaiting its infusion in hot water. But will we ever dare to use them?