Autumn foraging

This year has seen a bumper autumn for foraging with a fantastic crop of fruit gathered by us from hedgerows within a short walk of the house thanks to the warm and mild spring.

Earlier in the year we had enjoyed nettle risotto and a lush crop of elderflowers which we made into cordial – greatly improved over the previous year’s attempt by the addition of citric acid from a brewing supplies store.

Thanks to a warm and dry June and July in East Anglia, blackberries seemed to ripen alarmingly early, provoking fears that we were seeing the practical effects of climate change.

But we managed to get an excellent crop nevertheless, eating our fill with apples from our recently-planted Bramley apple tree and freezing the remainder to see us through the winter.

Ample supplies of crab apples have made for a delicious amber-coloured jelly using the perennially-useful recipe from Richard Mabey‘s classic foragers’ bible Food for Free. Hips, haws and a few late blackberries added to the mix left us with jars and jars of wine-red hedgerow jelly too.

It’s been a challenge learning how to make this jelly set correctly (some time in the fridge seems to help no end) but we’re getting the knack – and these preserves taste as good with cheese and biscuits as they do when used as jam.

Finally, we managed to collect a few damsons, although poor hedgerow management by a local farmer means the best source in the neighbourhood has been more or less destroyed – due to a mechanical cutter hacking off the hedge at below head-height rather than it being trimmed in a more ecologically sensitive manner.

However, a very successful foraging year mainly characterised by us getting much better at making preserves. We’ll have to see if we can move on from jellies to jams next year. And try the rowan wine recipe referred to in this Guardian foraging article