It’s that wonderful time of year when everything is ripening. All of a sudden you have boxes of courgettes, handfuls of ripe tomatoes every day, and so much leaf veg you’re desperate to give some away before it goes to waste. This time of year is great! Even more excitingly for me though are the wonders that are ripe and ready waiting to be discovered in the wild.
The hedgerows are abundant with edibles, from the predictable blackberry to the less often thought of hawthorn; there are lots of juicy surprises for us to find. This time of year is especially good as the blackberries have shown themselves for a good couple of weeks now, the crab apples and apples are good for harvesting, and elderberries are starting to hang low and fat on their branches.
I have a simple but lovely field guide from the National Trust that gives details on wild food, and comes with good colour illustrations. When I was flicking through earlier in the summer I rediscovered a wishlist from a couple of years ago, with only a couple of ticks. I can now add some more ticks after a good summer of discoveries! What I am most interested in finding now is a good supply of sloes (blackthorn) and some wild damsons. The purples!
Getting to know your local area, the footpaths, the verges, the trees in the park, is really useful for foraging. It works the other way round too, foraging for food opens your eyes to your surroundings. I have only lived in this town for a little over a year so I’m still making new discoveries, I’ve found it hard to get a good supply of blackberries so I’ve kept to raiding York’s bushes where I know. My girlfriend Jenny said to me she would like to be even more outdoorsy with me so I suggested we might go foraging next weekend, the idea seems to have gone down well!
With an eye on next weekend, here is my wishlist, in order, of what I should like to find:
1. Wild damsons
2. Sloes [best harvested after the first frost but finding a supply now saves missing them later in the year]
5. Crab apples
7. Sweet chestnuts [ripe from October]
I will revisit this list in a week, here’s hoping nature is kind to us and our searching eyes.
I couldn’t wait a week to revisit this list and in fact have already been out on two forages, just in the local lanes, which of course is the best place for it. There is nothing like free food close to home. I have also paid a visit to the library and picked up a copy of Richard Mabey’s Food For Free, a title I have been waiting to flick through for a while.
I have added to my wishlist above, indicated in italics. The list grows, and I am sure we will find even more than we are bargaining for. I’ll be sure to take my camera.