Saturday 14 August 2010

Watch out for those wild fruit and nut crops

For me, the wild fruit season starts in late June when the cherries are ripening. We are now towards the end of the wild cherry crop and having just been to my house in London, it is clear that the crop there has now all but gone. Any fruit that was left on the trees there would have been gobbled up by the wood pigeons weeks ago. Further north at my house in the North East of England, the cherries ripen later but even now, in mid August, there won't be many left. However there will be plenty of other fruits now ready for picking.

I am on the train from Crystal Palace to Victoria in London at the moment and can see a great crop of blackberries and elderberries along the railway embankments. It is still a couple of weeks to go before we can start picking elderberries back in the North East but the blackberries are beginning to ripen there as well. So be ready with jam and wine making recipes - and pies as well! Try bottling the fruit as well for later use. One of my videos still waiting to be edited is about bottling cherries. Use the same techniques with blackberries. The video should be posted up soon (I may even try to edit on the train to Newcastle this afternoon).

Rowan, or mountain ash, are ripening as well. They are very common though rowan jelly, which is easy to make, is a bit of an acquired taste though it goes well with cold meats.

Apples are also beginning to ripen as well. Check along country lanes in particular. The bad habit of some drivers of irresponsibly tossing their litter from their cars does sometimes result in seeds in discarded apple cores growing into trees. The apples are free for the picking so go get them. Watch out for crab apples as well. They will be ready soon. These are best used in making jellies as they have a good level of pectin. I've never used them for anything else but have set myself the task of finding other uses for them.

Raspberries are still in abundance and you can't beat raspberry jam. Pick them by the bucketload.

Check out old orchards and road verges for pear trees. You will be surprised how many you find. Further south they will be ripening soon. Up north give them a few weeks.

Rosehips are now ready for picking. They can be used in jam making. We are going to dig out wartime recipes for rosehip syrup. Rosehips are very high is vitamin C.

The gooseberry season is probably at an end now but keep your eyes peeled in hedgerows. There may be an odd bush that hasn't given up its bounty yet.

Sloes are just starting to ripen in London. They still need a couple of weeks but get the sloe gin recipes ready. They can also be used in jams and jellies. It will be a bit longer before they ripen up North.

And so on to nuts! Food foragers and those trying to become self-sufficient love hazel nuts. They are the wonder food of the community. They are packed full of protein and oils. Lotties Wood, next to our village of Sunniside in Gateshead, has hazel in abundance. They aren't ready yet but further south they are starting to ripen. Do not hang around before picking them. You will be in an intensive competition with grey squirrels for hazel.

Beechnuts will be ready soon though they tend to elude me. Whenever I pick them they are little more than dried out skins inside the husks. However I am not prepared to give up on them yet.

Acorns will need about another 4 weeks. We use them for making flour. Admittedly you have to be heavily into food foraging and self-sufficiency to do this. I am keen however to look at other ways to use acorns. When I was in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco last year, I heardof people there collecting acorns and cooking them. But I did not witness it first hand and since then my attempts to find anything on the internet has drawn a blank. If anyone can help me on this, I would be eternally grateful.

And finally sweet chestnuts. They aren't ready yet. They probably need at least another month. When they are ready you will need heavy gardening gloves to pick them. As well as roasting them they can be used to make flour for cakes. We've not tried it before as we didn't have enough but we did use them with hazel to make nut roasts. If we get a big enough supply, we will definitely be making flour. We have an eye on a woodland near David's sister's house. I found loads of sweet chestnut trees there at Christmas last year. Too late for picking at the time but this year we are planning an expedition there.

So happy foraging!
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Living in the North of England I found the timings on this very useful. Thank you