Results for category "Foraging"

A Day of Harvest

Looking out of the window to see a ray of light cutting through the swirling autumn mist Mo informed us that today would be harvest day. Tomorrow she will show us how to make apple and blackberry jam/jelly, but first a little preparation is required – someone needs to gather the fruit. First the Apples! So, buckets swinging in the morning sun, we made our way to the orchard.

The morning passed quickly as we bent, stretched, jumped and engaged in a few postures that might make a qualified yoga teacher jealous, or maybe just wince, as we collected all the apples we could from the trees and surrounding wall garden. Although, for the most part, commercial tree fruit production in the UK is limited to areas such as Kent, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, where the combination of soil and sunlight makes growing fruit trees on a large scale viable, the gardener or small orchard owner has much more scope. These growers can benefit from the fickle climate which, perhaps surprisingly, makes the UK one of the best places for growing fruit trees to maximise flavour. So for small-scale growers and gardeners, seeking to grow tree fruits with the best possible flavour, much of the UK is very suitable.

The main challenges to producing good quality tree fruit in the UK are unsettled weather during spring, which can damage blossoms or discourage pollinating insects, and indifferent summers with too little sunlight. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, winter cold is almost never an issue for growing fruit trees in the UK – most fruit tree species evolved in far colder regions than the UK. Thus, even in a bad winter, trees should easily survive in most parts of the UK, although in a bad summer they may not produce much fruit or the fruit may fail to ripen. At tea break, Sam, a local and adopted grandfather for the family, informed us of the local bumper crop of apples and told us many apples were going to waste.

After lunch it was time for the second main ingredient. Blackberries! This time armed with a large plastic bowl and wrapped up well, we made our way towards the beach looking for the most succulent specimens.

Not much sums up a British Autumn better than a wander along blackberry-filled country lanes with red-stained fingertips (and possibly around the mouth too) clutching an old plastic tub and provided you’re not trespassing, it is a great way of sourcing lots of free fruit. Indeed, not only do blackberries grow in abundance in hedgerows across the UK, they are not restricted to rural areas being found along canal paths and across even wasteland in towns and cities.

Fruits should be shiny and firm when picked and seem to vary in flavour from place to place with seasoned blackberry hunters often having favourite bushes whose harvest they prefer. You can, of course, taste as you go, making sure to avoid the ones which may have been “watered” by passing dogs! Once picked they will normally last only a couple of days, although one can always store any excess in a freezer.

After a long afternoon in the chilling wind we found our way back to the Mill, and with plenty of warm drinks and a filling dinner, looked forward to tomorrow’s day of preserve making.

Loving Simplicity