J Peggy Taylor
Wild fruit foraging is one of my favourite Summer tasks and in our area there’s a forager’s feast with lots of delicious berries to find. The raspberries are usually the first to ripen and one or two berries are just beginning to show their rosy tones.
Whilst we’re awaiting the imminent raspberry-picking season, I’ve still been working my way through the last few of last year’s blackberries from my freezer. I concocted these rather delicious blackberry tea scones, tinged pink from their added wild fruit. I love cooking with wild food.
J Peggy Taylor
Our Christmas feasting would not be complete without a dash of wild food. Wild fruits, carefully harvested and preserved during Summer and Autumn, bring out memories of warm sunshine in these deep days of Winter.
You may have seen my Wordless Wednesday pic last week, with my son expertly whisking up a Yule log cake. Here is the Yule log cake in all its decorated glory, replete with lashings of home-made blackberry jam and cream … and not forgetting the cherries and chocolate! This is definitely a cream cake to eat with a spoon!
Another wild food festive treat I like to rustle up is Raspberry Coulis – a delicious fruity sauce topping that turns plain vanilla ice cream into a delightful dessert, especially with a shaking of grated chocolate on top. We prefer this wild food dessert instead of traditional Christmas pudding.
Raspberry Coulis is easy, though slightly time-consuming to make – here is the recipe I always use:
175g / 6 oz of fresh raspberries (washed) or frozen raspberries (thawed)
3 teaspoons of water
3 teaspoons of sugar
(We find this is sufficient quantity to accompany 8 servings of ice cream.)
1. Blend the raspberries in a blender or food processor with the water and sugar.
2. Sieve the mixture through a metal or nylon sieve. (This is the time-consuming part! I find stirring the mixture carefully in the sieve helps it on its way 😉 )
3. Turn the resulting liquid into a saucepan and boil for one minute. This makes the sauce clear and glossy.
4. Cool and refrigerate until needed. (I find this sauce lasts about four or five days in the fridge … then it tends to have been eaten! 😉 )
If the raspberry harvest has been disappointing and we have none left in the freezer by Christmas, I have also made up the same recipe using blackberries with equally delicious results. We always tend to have many more blackberries. Sometimes the bramble bushes are blooming again before all our blackberry stash has been devoured!
J Peggy Taylor
Sunday was one of the drier and sunnier days we have experienced in the past couple of weeks so I took the opportunity to go nettle gathering. I am planning a new project using nettle fibre, or rather intending to create something of a cross between cordage and yarn. I did a little experimenting with nettle fibre last Summer and I’ve been keen ever since to develop this idea further – hence my need for nettles. The plants I wanted are the longest, thickest Stinging Nettles I could find, which may sound like madness but I have learned that the fibres in the taller nettles are likely to be stronger so would be best for yarn-making.
I had spotted a ‘nice’ patch of suitable nettles when we’d been blackberry and apple picking recently, so off I set with gloves and my secateurs … and of course my specially designed lightweight trug created just for this purpose. Although it was a lovely warm sunny day, it was remarkably quiet along my chosen ‘nettle’ path and since it was so pleasant in the sun, I decided to defoliate the nettle stems right there rather than taking them all home first. Another part of the process I carried out straight away was removing the stinging hairs from the stems. With a pair of thick gardening gloves this is an easy operation as the hairs can simply be rubbed off by pulling each stem through gloved hands. The nettle fibres grow in the outer skin or ‘bark’ layer of the stem so I only needed the stems and this meant less to carry home in my trug too.
To obtain the nettle fibre I need to strip the ‘bark’ layer off the stems. This process is called decortication. For the method I am using, I begin by splitting the stems lengthwise. Whilst the nettle stems are still green, stem-splitting is as simple as standing on the stems to crack and flatten them. Now I will leave them for a few weeks to let the stems dry out before I attempt the next stage of the process.
Whilst I was out on a sunny and warm late-August afternoon, of course I could not resist also picking just a few more blackberries …
J Peggy Taylor
Sunday saw us tangling with the undergrowth to pick our first batch of apples this Summer. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the ripening progress of our ‘wild’ apples. There are several old apple trees on some land nearby to us that is sadly destined for ‘development’, but this year at least we will be picking the fruit as usual.
We’ve had lots of fun apple-picking with our boys over the years. They still love the excuse to climb into the trees, while I stand below to catch the apples as they’re tossed in my direction – good job we’ve played a lot of cricket too 😉
Some of the apples will be added to some of my previously-picked-and-frozen raspberries to make delicious homemade jam.
Some more apples will be added to the next fruit on my Summer fruit-picking timetable too – rowanberries.
Bunches of these bright orange-red berries decorate the rowan trees in late Summer. Rowanberry jelly is another preserve I like to make each Summer to my own recipe. Chopped apples are part of my rowanberry jelly mixture. I love the colour of this jelly … and the taste!
Fruit harvesting is a regular part of Summer and early Autumn for our family. We are fortunate to be able to forage for several wild and semi-wild fruits in our local area. Raspberries, apples, rowanberries … then the next on my list will be blackberries, which are just beginning to ripen in sunny spots here and there.
The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is Earth or Harvest Season. Harvest for me means reaping the fulfilment of the promises of Spring in the bounty of Summer and Autumn, when the earth and the sun have done their work. As well as fruit foraging to feed ourselves, we also always make sure we leave plenty for the animals and birds who rely on Nature’s harvest too.
J Peggy Taylor