Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wild foods

September and October are wonderful months to go out for walks in your neighbourhood and spot some wild edible foods. In September in the UK you can find the following :

Beech nut
black mustard
cauliflower fungus
dandelion roots
fairy ring champignon
field mushroom
giant puffball
hawthorn berries
heather flowers
hedgehog fungus
honey fungus
hop fruits
horse mushroom
jack by the hedge
parasol mushrooms
saffron milk cap
sea beet
shaggy cap
velvet shank
wild service tree
wild strawberry

Many of these will be mysteries for any of you, me including but I also spot some familiar items, blackberry, elderberry, rosehip, raspberry and wild strawberry. Our cottage garden is abundant with berries and since living here I have made use of all of them.
Blackberries are great for apple and blackberry pie, apple and blackberry jelly and freeze well. Elderberries have been used for cordial, raspberries and wild strawberries as a welcome addition in my morning bowl of cereal.

Rosehip is less well known, but you will spot it on your wild rose bushes in the garden. What to do with them? Rosehip syrup used to be made because it is rich in vitamin C. It has a tang bouquet of mango with tropical notes.

The hips are on the bushes between late August and November.
Rosehip syrup can be used as a flavouring for milk puddings, ice cream or almost any sweet or diluted as a drink ( 1 part oto 5 part water) and making it is the simplest way of filtering out the prickly seed, which can be a dangerous internal irritant. Its also excellent as an alternative to maple syrup on pancakes.

This recipe was used during WWII using 2lbs of rosehips and comes from Hedgerow Harvest, MOF 1943.

Have ready 3 pints of boiling water, mince the hip in a coarse grinder, drop immediately into the boiling water or if possible mince the hips directly into the boiling water and again bring to the boil. Stop heating and set aside for 15 minutes. Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid comes through. Return the residue to the saucepan, add 1 1/2 pints of water, stir and allow to stand for 10 mins. Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip. To make sure that all the sharp hairs are removed, put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again. Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures 1 1/2 pints, then add 900 g ( 1 3/4lbs) of sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once. If corks are used these should be boiled for 15 mins before and after use coated with paraffin wax. It is advisable to make small bottles as it will only keep for 1 to 2 weeks once opened.

Rosehip syrup was used as a source for vitamin C in helping with the common cold and locally applied to aid inflamed gums.

Disclaimer - If you are not familiar with which types of mushroom and fungi are edible, please do not pick and eat them.

If you fancy a walk on the wildside you can do a course on wild mushroom gathering at River Cottage.

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