Autumn Foraging with Mummymau

3 Oct

Sometimes, all you need is a beautiful, English Autumn day, and some quality time with your Mum.

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I was able to spend a delightful and well-deserved weekend down in Odiham with my Mum and her husband, David in the first week of September, during which we partook of a little foraging. Confession time – I’ve never foraged before! As an absolute novice, Mum kept an eye on me throughout the afternoon, to ensure I wasn’t going to poison anybody.

 

The Hampshire countryside is bursting with delicious berries, nuts and fruits, ripe for the taking.

In the space of a few hours, we were able to collect:

Hazelnuts!

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We found that little clusters of hazelnuts tended to be huddled beneath the leaves, hidden from view. I’ve read on a number of sites that it’s best to leave the nuts until they are ripe. However, the squirrels tend to be closer to the action, and snaffle all the good ones long before the foragers get a chance. We picked the nuts in their husks, and left them to dry out in a cool, dark place. After a day or so, the nuts began easily falling out of their leafy husks, and slowly began to darken in colour.

 

We began with nearly 1kg of nuts in husks, and after de-husking them, we were left with nearer 400g. After that, we removed any nuts which had visible holes or damage to their shells, and then left the rest to mature in a cool, dark place once again. From reading other sites, I’m guessing this will take 4-6 weeks., so I’ll give you an update then!

Blackberries! IMAG0723

The hedgerows were utterly awash with delicious blackberries. There were so many to choose from that we were able to be discerning with our selection. We did our best to only pick the berries which were just ripening. These were easy to spot, as blackberries are bright red before ripening, so the black berries nearest to these were the most recently ripe ones.

 

We collected a whole bunch, most of which are being stored in my freezer right now whilst I decide what to do with them. A few made their way into my mum’s signature apple crumble that evening, which was made with apples from the lovely old apple tree in her garden, and a hint of orange zest. Delish!

Sloes! IMAG0728

Now, I’ll be honest with you, we couldn’t be sure when we saw these what they were – we took copious pictures and took them home to research online. We came to the final conclusion that they were sloes. The leaves were oval, with a serrated edge; the berries themselves were black, with a purple-blue bloom, and they were just larger than blueberries. The flesh of sloes is very sharp-flavoured, and really they shouldn’t be picked until after the first frost of the season. However, if you pick them before this date, you can recreate the effect by putting them in the freezer overnight.

The obvious use for sloes is, of course, sloe gin. I used Sipsmith’s advice on making sloe gin, so I didn’t add sugar at the outset. I will add sugar syrup to taste at the end of the process. I pricked the washed, defrosted sloes and added them to two sterilised bottles, before topping up with gin. I have to admit that I scrimped a little on the choice of gin, and just chose one that was on offer, but I guess I’ll only discover the results of the experiment in a few months time when it’s ready. I’ll keep you posted.

… we even found Hops!

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I’ve never seen hops before, and I was amazed by their delicate beauty. Across the hedgerow, we spotted fine, curling vines of these dainty green lanterns. We didn’t have any use for them so we left them to grow.

IMG_1074It was a thoroughly excellent day :)

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One Response to “Autumn Foraging with Mummymau”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Christmas Confectionery Cavalcade! | Welcome to my blog - 01/09/2015

    […] complete the repertoire of Christmas edible treats, I bottled up some sloe gin (reprised from last year’s success) and also baked a few more batches of the Swedish sugar and spice cookies. Never let it be said […]

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