Tag Archives: wild food

Wordless Wednesday: First apples and blackberries of the season

First apples and blackberries of the season

J Peggy Taylor

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Waiting for the raspberries to ripen

New season's raspberries growing
New season’s raspberries – green but growing

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.

New season's raspberries
New season’s raspberries – just beginning to ripen
Last-of-the-blackberries tea scones
“Last-of-the-blackberries” tea scones

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

Bluebells in woodland

My Favourite Things for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.

My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.

The cool green tranquility of the river
The cool green tranquility of the river

Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.

Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.

Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!

Crochet patch and new crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.

Turning a shirt collar - before and after
Turning a shirt collar – before and after

Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …

I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.

A colourful October dawn

To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?

I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.

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J Peggy Taylor

Christmas wild food - Yule log cake

Wild food for Christmas

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!

Our Yule log cake 2014
My own MasterChef in the making? The fully decorated Yule log cake!

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 Ice Cream Dessert
Raspberry Coulis Ice Cream Dessert

Raspberry Coulis is easy, though slightly time-consuming to make – here is the recipe I always use:

Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients:
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.)

To make:
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

Fruit-picking time! Choosing containers for raspberries

The raspberries are ripening! The sun is shining! … and so fruit-picking time begins for 2014!

An assortment of my fruit foraging containers
An assortment of my fruit foraging containers

But before the fruit-picking can begin, the first job is to dig out my old and trusty recycled containers. There are those that I like to take out with me for holding the berries whilst I’m picking. Then there are those that fit together well for storing my fruit in the freezer. My many containers come in useful different shapes and sizes. It seems WordPress must have read my mind this week when choosing “Containers” as the topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge!

I love foraging for wild fruit. We spend many happy Summer hours fruit-picking. We’re lucky as we have a good variety of wild fruits growing nearby to us. For me fruit-picking is such a calming and tranquil activity – a chance to slip away from busyness into my own little world for a short time.

The raspberry canes grow in the tangled undergrowth amongst the stinging nettles and thistles
The raspberry canes grow in the tangled undergrowth amongst the stinging nettles and thistles

The raspberries are the first of our fruits to ripen, so I’m usually picking them by mid to late July. They grow in a rather overgrown but sheltered spot, which is lovely in the warm sun. I get so absorbed in seeking out and picking the fruit that I always end up with more than a few nettle stings when I’m finished! ‘No pain, no gain’ … so the saying goes!

Our first raspberries of 2014
Our first raspberries of 2014 – growing in their quiet, sunny corner.

As raspberries are rather soft and easily squashed, I tend to pick them in small batches. I take a shallow recycled tub to hold the raspberries – I’ve had some of my foraging tubs for years, but they are ideal for this job.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

When I return home, the raspberries are washed and checked over. The berries are either eaten immediately for quick and easy desserts or I put them into a container and place them in the freezer. Sometimes my sons come along to help with the picking, then even more of the berries get eaten immediately! … including before the raspberries actually arrive home, as you might imagine!

Storing raspberries for home freezing
Adding a second batch of raspberries to the container of frozen berries

Over the next few weeks more batches of raspberries will be picked and frozen. As I gradually amass a good quantity of berries in the freezer, we begin watching out for the apples ripening. They also grow close by to us, so we’ve not far to go to keep checking them. … and then it will be time for jam-making to begin!

J Peggy Taylor

Wood Sorrel flowering on the woodland floor

Nature Notes: Woodland walks in Spring

Having the woods right on our doorstep makes me rather like Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. If you know this classic children’s story you may recall that Mole is drawn from his chores by the temptation of the outdoors. “Hang Spring Cleaning!” he exclaims before setting out to explore Springtime in the countryside. Just like Mole, I find sunny Spring days hard to resist … who wants to be stuck indoors when there’s so much to enjoy outside!

Mole, Spring cleaning - The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.
Mole, Spring cleaning – The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.

For us, woodland walks in Spring bring the exciting prospect of foraging for fresh wild food. Spotting the first ‘munchies’ of early Spring is something of a family ritual. The wild food we fondly refer to as ‘munchies’ is Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella. Once the Wood Sorrel’s new acid-green citrus-flavoured trifoliate leaves begin to brighten up the forest floor we can’t resist picking a few as we meander on our way.

Picking tasty new Wood Sorrel leaves in Spring
Picking our first ‘munchies’ of this Spring … that’s Wood Sorrel btw 🙂

Whilst on the same walk, as well as finding this year’s first ‘munchies’, we also spotted the feathery leaves of another Spring flower of old woods, the Pignut Conopodium majus. The chestnut-type root of the Pignut seems to be quite a well-regarded wild food though I must say I have never tried it. The digging up of any wild plant is not legal in the UK unless you have the permission of the landowner. I forage out of interest rather than necessity so I tend to restrict my wild food foraging to leaves and fruits, making sure that the plants retain the ability to thrive and re-grow. This photo shows the Pignut in its classic habitat – growing amongst the Bluebells.

The feathery leaves of Pignut growing through the Bluebell leaves
The feathery leaves of Pignut growing through the Bluebell leaves.

Some of the woodland flowers are among my Spring favourites – I find I have ‘favourites’ for each season! Spring finds me combing the sunny banks for the first Violets and Wood Sorrel, or taking certain paths through the woods to seek out keenly anticipated patches of wild Primroses or Bluebells.

I have been eagerly watching out for the Primroses in one of our woods in particular. The area where they grow had been under conifer plantation for some years but has recently been part of a programme of ancient woodland restoration. Now that there is more light reaching the forest floor, it is wonderful to see those sleeping seeds that have been waiting patiently in the woodland soil for years taking their chance and bursting into life.

Primroses in Spring sunshine
Primroses in Spring sunshine

This week when we visited the wood we found the Primroses had sprung up in lots of lovely patches of yellow and green. They looked wonderful! We also discovered this lone Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa nearby. I love the way my son has managed to capture the silky texture of the white petals in his photo. The flower was popular with insect visitors too – there’s a small cardinal beetle making a cautious entrance in this shot! Hopefully that will mean there will be more Wood Anemones here next year.

Shimmering white petals of a lone Wood Anemone in the woods
Shimmering white petals of a lone Wood Anemone

Here is another fascinating flower that I watch out for each Spring. This is Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina. It grows on a sunny bankside beside an old road over a Victorian railway bridge in our woods. I have seen it described as the ‘Town Clock’ flower and when you look closely, it is easy to see how it came by this name. Each flowerhead is held on a tall stalk (approx. 5-10cm high) and comprises five yellow-green florets with yellow stamens. Four of the florets form a square with the fifth one facing upwards. The three-lobed leaves at the base of the stalk are a darker green than the flowers.

The intriguing 'Town Clock' flower - Moschatel, growing on a sunny bank
The intriguing ‘Town Clock’ flower – Moschatel, growing on a sunny bank

On one of our sunny Spring walks this week we saw the promise of the first fruits of this year – the bilberry, that’s the UK’s own wild ‘blueberries’ which grow quite prolifically in our local woods. The pink berry-like flowers are just beginning to open. Although we have hillsides growing thick with the low-growing bilberry bushes, these berries do take a bit of picking when they ripen in late Summer.

Pink and green berry-like flowers on low-growing Bilberry bushes
Pink and green berry-like flowers on low-growing Bilberry bushes

The berries grow singly and are often tucked away out of sight so keen eyes are needed to hunt them out. Equally keen eyes are needed if I am hoping to make sure any of these tasty purple-blue berries actually make it back home rather than being enjoyed straight from the bushes 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

My Blooming Back Yard

I try to grow as much as possible in my very tiny back yard – from herbs to flowers to numerous small trees. My yard faces west and only benefits from a little afternoon sun in Springtime so this tends to mean my early flowers take their time to bloom. But our recent mild and sunny days have persuaded some of them to start the Spring Show.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Our purple crocuses have now opened their glorious eyes to reveal their white depths and vivid orange stamens. The seedlings underneath the crocuses are the beginnings of a favourite wild salad leaf of ours, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata. They’ll grow on after the Spring bulbs are finished.

Our mini daffodils are doing rather well too. I originally rescued a pot containing three rather sad-looking specimens from a plant stall two years ago. Now we have a pot with four healthy flowers and the promise of more, judging by the additional greenery striving to put in an appearance around this year’s flowers. I can see they will definitely need lifting and repotting after this flowering season.

Mini daffodils in bloom
Mini daffodils in bloom

The Washfield Double hellebores I have on my doorstep do appreciate the indirect light and have been quite successful in their large pots for several years now. I love the under-stated pink of this hellebore. My other plant has subtle yellow-green flowers with maroon markings. I usually feed these plants with home-made garden compost in early Spring when I finish trimming back the old leaves. So that’s another job to get done soon.

Pink Washfield Double Hellebore - flower
Pink Washfield Double Hellebore – flower

I planted some new willow cuttings a few weeks ago and they seem to be doing very well. I’ve a few more cuttings to find homes for too – more willows (but with a reddish tinge to the stem) and a few sprigs of Common Mallow Malva sylvestris I rescued from a plant that had been strimmed down on some council-owned land nearby.

Rather like my love of upcycling with other materials, I’m a bit of a regenerator of plants as well! I discovered the wonder of cuttings a number of years ago and have found this a great way of generating more plants. Some plants such as willow, mint and lavender I have generated entirely from cuttings.

I also like to seek out those sad-looking plants on plant stalls that look like the-dog-that-nobody-wants. Then I find with a little bit of tlc these plants can be brought back to their blooming best. My mini daffodils are one such success and now I also have some tulips that I ‘rescued’ on my last town trip …

J Peggy Taylor