Tag Archives: foraging

Growing up

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Thirty-odd years ago, the road was new, noisily slicing through orchards, swallowing some of the best growing land in Kent. Nevertheless, our children all loved the walk out of town, by lanes and footpath, through those orchards to the ford with its wooden bridge that memorably was once washed away.

We enjoyed hunting for blackberries, and knew where to find a couple of self-sown pear trees, one quite close to the busy road, and the odd crabapple tree.

Now, as in this photograph, the trees along the road have grown up. I was just cycling that way: the path joins the river path to make a head-clearing short circuit for cyclists or walkers. I was keeping an eye for windfalls (too early) and wild fruit. A few crabs in the bag, one pear tree had been flailed back, the other?

It used to be here, I thought, looking for pears at eye-level, used to orchard trees on dwarfing roots with their fruit readily harvestable. This tree was not modified in this way, and it was by its bark that I knew it. I was reminded of one we had at school, the size of a forest tree, its fruit inaccessible; it was a lovely tree with no branches below 2 metres. With no close neighbour it had developed into a green pyramid, but we ate very little of the fruit.

The tree I was looking at today had plenty of neighbours, some planted by the Highways Authority, but mostly self-sown willow and ash, all so close that their trunks were growing straight up to the light.

And the pears, with their lovely russet peel, were high up, out of reach. Oh well, we might be able to find one or two windfalls for the L’Arche cider project!

bridge.meadows.maycrabtree-rly-488x640The river path and a crabapple tree.

 

 

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Croaks

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It was an evening to dine in the garden, a leisurely tete-a-tete meal with Mrs T. Mrs T has been fretting about the frogs who seem to have abandoned the pond this summer, but as we dug into the home-made blackberry ice-cream (thanks to Abel for the picking he did) there came a croak from the woodpile, a definite, assertive, bass note. A few seconds later, a tenor croak replied from under the holly bush.

Mrs T could go to bed happy. May the frogs be with her!

The bee-loud glade

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There is a buzz in Canterbury these days, at least wherever there are lime trees. Even mere humans can pick up the honeyed scent of the flowers, but the bees are loving it.

I harvested plenty from around Saint Mildred’s church for my lime flower tea, now drying on the spare bedroom floor. The trees around the church are far enough from the main road to have escaped the worst of the pollution. The drink is refreshing ice cold. There’s still time to harvest yours!

30 March: Peeping into a poet’s diary.

garlic

End of March and beginning of April, 1871 —

One bay or hollow of Hodder Wood is curled all over with bright green garlic.

In Gerard Manley Hopkins, Selected Poems and Prose, Edited by Ruth Padel, London, Folio Society, 2012, p125.

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Did the Jesuits of Stonyhurst gather the garlic for their Lenten kitchen, I wonder?

 

The fifteen minute mixing

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The recipes for sloe gin are many and various and often vague; I went for a simple version with quantities that made sense, rather than ‘just cover with sugar …’ and  so on.

Essentially though, it is sloes, pierced with a fork, sugar and gin shaken up together. After some family consultation I added two scraps of cinnamon stick.

We’ll see. All is sealed in a Kilner jar which has to be agitated frequently.

Maybe we’ll take a sip at Christmas, while the sloes will make a fine marinade for the family meal.

The fifteen minute forage

 

A warm October evening, and Mrs T and I felt lethargic. Time for a walk? Indeed there was, so up Abbot’s Hill we went. Autumn colours showing themselves, but what about the sloes? Mrs T made sloe gin last year, and the family enjoyed it, Mrs T excepted.

There they were on the old hedge, and I had a bag in my pocket. In a quarter of an hour we culled sufficient to our need – and I was delegated to make the gin this year. We slightly overshot our target of 1 lb or 450gm.

On the way down we gathered in the first dozen or so chestnuts: there’s a little squash waiting to be stuffed; a few mushrooms will help. Mists and mellow fruitfulness anyone?

A tunnel re-opened, but closed for the night.

A flying visit to Saddleworth, where the moorland fires are now out, allowed NAIB and I to walk to Diggle along the Canal, We managed a very little foraging, just to be able to say we had done it: a few tiny bilberries, raspberries almost as small, and a handful of blackberries between the two of us.

We turned around at the Western or Diggle Entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. Narrow boats may pass through in one direction at a time behind a pilot boat. No more were moving yesterday so the gates were closed for safety.

Note the sculpture of the leggers. In the days of horse power bargees walking, or legging, along the sides or roof of the canal was the only means of propulsion for 3¼ miles. No wonder there was a pub at either end!

The blue plaque commemorates Thomas Telford, engineer of the Menai Bridge and many other surviving structures, whose intervention enabled the tunnel to be completed in 1811. The date on the later portico is misleading.

Read more about the tunnel here. 

We visited the Menai Bridges on 21 April 2015: Menai Bridges