Tuesday, May 26

Autumn wild harvest

Gathering wild food is always good and making something delicious to eat from the harvest is even better. We have several types of mushroom on the farm but as yet have not been able to identify anything as edible with absolute certainty. We know we have poisonous fly agarics and Death caps but there are possibly some field mushrooms that could be eaten. Will have to get a wild food guide before any taste testing though! We also have nettles around the place and they make a great pesto, a different filling for ravioli and passable soup. Hardest thing is not getting stung when picking them. We use BBQ tongs and wear gloves.

There was truly an abundance of rose hips and haw(thorn) berries this autumn and we picked several kilos of each. Making jelly from wild berries is actually very easy. The fruit has to be washed well and any bruised or rotten ones discarded. Then boil the fruit in some water until pulpy and soft. Strain the juice from the pulp through a muslin bag overnight being careful not to squeeze the pulp otherwise the jelly will be cloudy. For every 500ml of juice add 500g of caster sugar and boil until setting point reached (add pectin if required). Pot into sterile jars and should last up to 12 months.

The rose hip jelly has a beautiful and distinctive taste and the haw jelly an amazing colour. Both great with home baked scones. Next autumn we will pick more fruit, particularly the rosehips, and give away pots to friends and family.

We also made Hawthorn schnapps from an old Danish recipe. Fill a preserving jar two-thirds with haws and then fill with vodka. Store in a dark place for 6-8 weeks, shaking jars every few days. When haws are bleached of colour (and flavour) strain into bowl and taste. If needed add a little sugar syrup and rebottle. Ready in another 6 weeks. Much cheaper and more interesting than any shop bought Absolut or clone.

One day we will use the wild foods with our pine nuts, olives and produce from the vegetable garden to make up meals for the freezer so we can enjoy the autumn bounty throughout winter. Might even bag the occasional (if only!!) rabbit and wild duck (there is a great River Cottage recipe for wild Peking duck with haw sauce).

Buon appetit!!

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