September fruits

Clusters of red hawthorn berries hanging in the hegerow

What happened to the summer? The weird wet weather has played havoc with certain fruit and nut crops this year. In fact if any of us were actually dependent on the wild or home grown harvest we would most likely be in a famine situation by now. There has been a major failure of the apple crop round here. With the exception a few varieties of either early or late flowering types all the feral and garden apple, pear and crab apple trees I know of have no crop at all. There are also no hazel nuts, no acorns and … read more

Elderflower Fritters with Wild Strawberries

This is the time of year when two wonderful flavours tend to coincide – Elder flowers and wild strawberries. Like many wild and foraged seasonal delicacies it’s a short window of opportunity. In fact some years they do not coincide at all but this year the elder flower is in bloom somewhat later than usual and the strawberries are ripening at exactly the same time. So I just had to put them together in a dish which is stupidly simple and the kids love -Elderflower fritters with ice cream and wild strawberries. For the elderflower fritters simply pick as many … read more

Beech Leaf Noyau

In the spring as the beech leaves are emerging is the time to prepare Beech leaf Noyau. This intriguing liqueur is traditionally made with gin and young beech leave and is a springtime alternative to Sloe gin. It’s origins are obscure. I first came across it in Richard Mabey’s classic 1970s book Food for Free. He reckons it “originated in the Chilterns where large plantations of beech were put down in the eighteenth and nineteenth century to service the chair-making trade.” Although the traditional method uses gin I made mine with white rum or you could try vodka. My thinking … read more

EL#2 The Wood, the Trees and Rising Sap

Tapping Birch Sap

  The second walk of the year looked at leafless tree identification and covered some interesting folk lore relating to particular tree species. The highlight of the March walk was a chance to witness the tapping of a birch tree and to try some fresh birch sap. Here is one of the trees in the valley that I tapped. A 1 inch hole was drilled through the outer bark of the tree and my improvised sap spigot tapped into the tree. My spigot was fashioned from a piece of aluminium tubing that fitted onto my one inch pvc tubing. This … read more