This year the weather has been perfect for growing and ripening, not only have we bumper crops in the garden and on our allotments but also in the surrounding countryside which is brilliant news for all the wildlife that rely on this natural harvest during the winter months.
Our hedgerows are simply overflowing with fruit just waiting to be picked.
What can you find in a Hedgerow?
- Sloe Berries
- Crab Apples
- Rose Hips
- Hawthorn Berries
What do you need to know before you go?
- Forage food only on public rights of way, if you are not sure or if you want to go off the beaten track ask the landowners permission first.
- Only take what you need, leave some for the birds and animals during the Autumn/Winter months.
- Respect the environment that you are collecting from and leave it as undisturbed as possible.
- Make sure that you are 100% certain that you know what you are picking, if you are not sure don’t pick it, some fruits can be similar in appearance to ones that are poisonous. Just because one part of a plant is edible it doesn’t mean that all parts are, some plants need cooking to destroy toxins e.g. cooking elderberries destroys toxins present in the raw berries, but leaves, barks or roots of elder should never be eaten.
- Don’t allow children to pick or eat wild food unsupervised.
- Avoid foraging on busy roadsides where vehicle pollution can contaminate the fruit, on industrial ground or on farmland where agricultural sprays may have been used.
What do you need?
- Containers for your delicious fruit – buckets/bags are ideal for larger and tougher fruit such as Crab Apples, Rose Hips, Hawthorn Berries and Damsons but smaller and softer fruits are better placed in shallower plastic containers such as butty boxes that will stop them from being squashed (Blackberries especially).
- Insect Spray and Bite Cream – be prepared, many insects especially wasps are just as attracted to the fruit as you are (Bite cream can often be used on Nettle stings too).
- A long stick with a ‘hook’ at one end – very useful for grabbing and pulling down those hard to reach branches, an umbrella would also do the job.
- Suitable clothing – a strong pair of shoes, long pants and a long sleeved top, some of the bushes are very prickly and care must be taken when picking their fruit (Blackberries, Sloe Berries, Hawthorn Berries, Rose Hips) Nettles are usually found in hedgerows too.
What do you do with your hedgerow harvest once you have got home?
- One of the first jobs is to sort through the fruit removing any that are damaged/rotten as well as any insects, leaves and stems.
- Most of the fruit will need a good wash, this is best done just before you use it.
- Decide what you are going to make with your bounty, have a look through your recipe books or on the internet, Jams, Curds and Jellies are one of the best ways to preserve fruit and they will keep well into next Spring, here are a few suggestions (click on the heading for the recipe):
My first memories of foraging – picking Blackberries with my Aunt and Uncle then coming home with bags of dripping Blackberries and purple stained clothes and fingers, marvelous!
Have fun, enjoy and love your environment