Saturday, September 17, 2016

Foraging

Now's the time to go out and get the last of the wild food before winter.  We live only a few streets away from our local country park--a reclaimed coal mine--now a wildlife area.  There are many wild foods to gather here, including fruits, nuts, and herbs.

Earlier in the summer I gathered wild oregano and mint to dry for my cupboard;  I made a big jar of mint sauce too.  The six year old and I picked a few wild cherries in July, but just for eating, not for storage.  My own cherries are far superior in size and flavor, so those got stored instead, in the freezer. 

I've been picking blackberries for the freezer this month.  The six year old wants jam but I may just keep them for regular cooking and/or smoothie use.  I've made jam in the past--and I learned early on to strain the seeds out!  Last year we picked a ziploc bag full for the freezer.  Not so many this year, but it's only me picking them.

There are a couple wild apple trees at our country park, which are pretty good for both eating and cooking.  Even the crab apples have a good flavor, though the best crab apple tree needs a good frost on it first, so I haven't picked any yet.  Some of the trees have a lot of apples this year, more than previous years.  I've made apple chutney, courtesy of The Joy of Cooking, my favorite cookbook.  Later on I'll make apple cider, when I have a couple demijohns free (not long now, I hope). 

One thing I never manage to forage at our park, however, is hazelnuts.  I know where they grow, but I always miss out on them.  I don't know if someone else strips the trees before I get to them, or if it's squirrels (I've only ever once seen at squirrel at our park, in all my 13 years of walking it).  All I know is I wish I could get some, but never do!

There is also a very tall pear tree at our park, but again, I've never harvested it.  The pears are too far out of reach;  the one time I was able to reach them, they were gone before they ripened.  Oh well.

Another, more unusual fruit which I love at our park:  rugosa rose hips.  There's a very big bush which produces them all summer long, and they taste a bit like orange candies:  tangy, juicy, sweet.  Just don't eat all the way to the middle, because they have some very spiny seeds. I dried a few last year for tea (very nice, too), but they really are best eaten fresh.

It's elderberry season too, but as mentioned previously, all my demijohns are currently in use (two with last year's elderberry wine!).  If I can muster up the motivation to pick some, I'll freeze them now, for making wine later.

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