Friday, September 01, 2006

some of my plum harvest...clockwise from yellows:
Mirabelles, Cherry Plums and a variety of greengage, the 'Yellow Egg'

So it's been a busy old month of August and here we are in September - have to confess I feel a bit ashamed that I haven't blogged more frequently. What the hell - no idea if anyone's reading this, so it's really just a writing discipline for me :-)

So August. A plummy month if ever there was one. So far I have 40lbs of plum jam waiting to be labelled and then some for the storecupboard, the rest for sale at a couple of fairs I'm doing later in the month. I also made some fruit leathers, thanks to access to a food dehydrator - courtesy of my mate Dave. Fruit leathers are delicious, you simmer the fruit uncovered in a bit of water for as long as it takes to soften, mash it through a seive to get a fruit pulp, then spread the pulp thinly on cling film and pop in the dehydrator. After about 12 hours it has dried to a leathery texture, and is ready for eating or storing on sheets of greaseproof paper. Leathers are excellent trail snacks, bursting with fruity flavours. They keep for ages too.

Plums were ( still are actually) dripping from hedgerows all around here in all shapes, sizes and colours. My favourite has to be the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) round, smaller than a traditional plum, and red to yellow in colour. It has good acidity and is a decent size, so you can collect a good carrier bagful in no time at all. Mirabelles are also common, yellow cherry sized fruit, less acidic so I ate plenty while I was picking them...
It's been fairly wet this month, which is not great for the end of a late starting summer ( it was freezing cold and very wet in May) but on the plus side, loads of young nettles and chickweed are now sprouting and that's good news for wild food fans. Blackberries are off to a good start, although with lots of rain they need a couple of days of sunshine to convert all the water to sugars before they're worth collecting. I've also been harvesting elderberries but have to compete with the birds - they definitely have the upper hand as the best berries are high up.
It's also been amazing for fungi, warm and wet provide ideal weather conditions for most species: field mushrooms, horse mushrooms, fairy ring champignons are springing up almost daily in fields and along wood margins.
Yesterday I was out in some woods and found my second ever giant puffball in good eating condition. Cooked up with a little garlic and a slug of white wine it was fab.
September is looking good for nuts: beech and hazel seem to be having a productive year although the ever present grey squirrels usually get most of the hazelnuts before they've even turned brown.... And by the end of the month it will be time to start foraging for roots.

There is a legal issue with digging up plants - totally illegal here in the UK unless you have permission from land owners. Fortunately I was slack with the weeding so I have some good stands of dandelion which I kept flower free over the spring so as to concentrate the plant energy into leaves and roots. I also earthed up some of the dandelions on the veg patch, this encourages the lower leaves to blanch white and they become extremely palatable with very little bitterness. I'm also looking forward to some Burdock root chips from some seeds that I planted in my garden last summer.

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