Thursday, 14 May 2015

Young Fruit and Elderflower

I have been very busy during my lunch hour trips around Segensworth, and fortunately the weather has been welcoming. I have been keeping tabs on where the various fruit trees are located, tagging them as they blossomed on the Falling Fruit map. Here, you can see that I have surrounded the grim grey industrial estate with an abundance of fabulous fruit trees.

When you use this method during the Spring, you always need to revisit the sites to be sure that young fruits are following the flowers. It can be difficult to spot immature fruit initially, because it is camouflaged very effectively by the green leaves.
Apple Blossom

It's a little early yet to tell whether the army of Apple trees that I have spotted will eventually produce good fruit. many of them may turn out to be Crab Apples, which can also be used in many interesting ways.
Elder Flower

At the Urbane Forager, the first things we pick each year are Elder-flowers. We make cool Cordial and chaotic Champagne from these delicately scented ivory blooms.

Elderflower drinks are soon followed by waves of sweet, dark Cherries, and then bucket loads of multi-coloured wild plums. Hopefully, Summer will be in full swing by this time
It always pays to be as well prepared and you can do this too by utilising our free Seasonal id Cheat Sheets. These handy aids have also been redesigned and included in the forthcoming Urbane Forager book.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Ransom Pesto

My friend Carolin wanted to make Wild Garlic pesto. In my lunch-hour I gathered a healthy handful of fresh Ransoms she did the rest and took the photos...
This is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe but, needless to say, others are available...

  1. 50g shelled walnuts
  2. About 75g wild garlic leaves and stems, washed and roughly chopped
  3. 35g parmesan (or other hard, mature cheese), finely grated
  4. Finely grated zest of ½ lemon, plus a good squeeze of lemon juice
  5. 100-150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  6. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the nuts in an ovenproof dish and toast for five to eight minutes, checking from time to time because they burn easily. Leave to cool.
Put the toasted nuts in a food processor, along with the wild garlic, parmesan and lemon zest. Blitz to a paste, then, with the motor running, slowly add the oil until you have a thick, sloppy purée. Scrape this into a bowl, add a squeeze of lemon and season to taste. This pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for a few days.

The children found it a tad spicy, apparently, but the adults loved it. So, dish out portions with due consideration.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Beautiful Blubells, Wild Garlic

Bluebells have been springing up everywhere for the last week or two, carpeting sun dappled woodland with their eerie hue.
A Woodland Apple Tree with Bluebells

We have started to notice masses of Wild Garlic and Ransoms in the woods and alongside footpaths (you can often smell Wild Garlic before you see it). When we were in sunny Devon recently, it seemed to be growing everywhere like weeds. Here there is another variant known locally as the Triangular Leek.
Wild Garlic
We found two separate types and they were thoroughly tested by our children. They both agreed that the broad leaved Ransoms did not taste as strong as the more succulent Wild Garlic. Both the leaves and flowers are suitable for using in various recipes, but you should never dig up the bulbs.
Ransoms and Bluebells
I always associate the arrival of Bluebells with  Wild Garlic and Ransoms because they flower at the same time and grow in a similar habitat, it's not unusual to find them side by side.
Bluebells near Segensworth

We have finished putting the final touches to the new Urbane Forager book and will soon have an approximate release date for you. Also, I will probably update this post soon to give a date for the Mansbridge Community Orchard blossom walk. Currently pencilled in for Sunday 10th at 2:00 pm. So, pay attention at the back!
One Swallow Doth Not a Summer Make

Monday, 20 April 2015

Cherry, Apple and Pear Blossom

"I know very little about the distance between stars or about the motives of Pepys, but I can always smell the Summertime at the latest by early Spring."

This evocative little lyric comes form an obscure song that I enjoyed as a teenager. It has always stayed with me and seems to become more pertinent with time.
Cherry Blossom
We are experiencing an unseasonably warm April, not that I'm complaining. The Cherry trees have been springing into flower and the blossom filled branches are stretching skywards. Pruned Cherry trees are normally kept to a few metres height but they can reach far further when left to their own devices.
It Will be Difficult to Pick These Cherries
Cherries are a native tree in the UK but it never ceases to amaze me how many there are in the parks, woodland and hedgerows. We started spotting the florid limbs poking up through the hedges along the motorway recently, not that I advocate advising picking them from the verges of arterial roads. 
Cherry Blossom
Cherries are the first fruits that we pick in the Summer. There are plenty to be found in the city's lovely parks and the pavements of quiet streets. We even pick them from industrial estates at the weekends, when they become peaceful places.
Pear Blossom (I Believe)
The exceptional Spring weather is also bringing Apple and Pear trees into bloom, which makes me think that I should organise a Blossom Walk at the Mansbridge Community Orchard fairly soon.

In other news... We have finished putting the final touches to the new Urbane Forager book and will soon have an approximate release date for you. This blog has received over 100,000 page views and now contains over 250 posts! A Great Big Fat Thank You to all our readers, please tell your friends and help spread the word...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Spring into Action

It's 7:15am, my train has been cancelled and it's raining. Another train will come but I choose to cycle the 11 miles to my employment, through April's finest showers. A"man" in a black Audi tries to run me over halfway through my journey; hopefully he is still stuck in traffic somewhere. As I work, I sit in my office in the midst of the massive, soulless industrial estate that is Segensworth, near Fareham. I occasionally gaze wistfully out of my window at what is possibly the least inspiring view I have ever had to endure.
Toward midday the grim grey clouds gradually break and the sweet azure begins to brighten my mood. Suddenly my heart is dramatically lifted as I spot and instantly recognise a Kite, slowly gliding over the drab grey buildings opposite. Lunchtime looms and as always, I get out of the building. I jog out of the estate, dodge the speeding motorists and slip through a hedge. Within 10 minutes I am standing in a field and my tightly coiled mind begins to unwind.
I find a footpath and follow it. I spot Plum blossom and Blackthorn too. Most of the white flowers in the hedgerows now are Blackthorn, so I predict a good year for Sloes. I make a mental note to add the locations to the fruit map. Further into my walk, I spot some old neglected Apple trees, or are the Pears? It's hard to tell in Spring. I also note several Cherry trees about to burst into bloom. After a brisk 10 minute walk I reach my intended target, a ruined abbey that I have noticed on a map, it is pretty impressive. In the grounds I locate several fruit trees, one of which is covered in delightful flowers, I think/hope it is a Peach tree.
After a short explore and a wander about it is time to return. I retrace my footsteps back to my office and work but now I am rejuvenated and refreshed. I'm looking forward to my journey home - It's a Bank Holiday weekend coming up. I'm looking forward to stepping off the treadmill, ricocheting about with the family, cultivating our allotment and hopefully scoffing an Easter egg.
As a sad postscript to this little tale, the large field that I got into via the hedge is shortly to be "developed" into an enormous care village. So, yet another green field site is to be decimated for private profit. I spotted a planning notice pinned to a lamp-post (hidden in a hedge where there was no pavement). I really cannot understand how these decisions can get past the local councillors. Although, we could probably guess...

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Choose the Best Jacket

Well the solar eclipse was a bit of a damp (cloudy) squib where we were, but never mind there's a lunar eclipse in September and another solar one coming to the UK in 84 years or so...
Meanwhile, something that requires more immediate attention is choosing your favourite book cover from the 3 images below. 
Please leave feedback and select your favourite, there will be a free signed book in the post for the most helpful comments, when they actually arrive.
Number One, Seasons

Number Two, Cherries

Number Three, Illustration
We hope you like the look of these book jackets. 
Please do leave comments, it really helps. 
I think it is a difficult choice, but that is a good thing.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Eclipsing the Equinox

There might not be much to harvest from the hedgerows at this time of year but there is still plenty to get excited about.
The weekend of the 21st 22nd is when the Vernal (Spring) Equinox occurs. This is the first time of the year when the days and nights are of equal length; the second time is the Autumnal Equinox. The Vernal Equinox is also the time of year in the UK when the clocks get moved forward, so we loose and hour of sleep, which I could do without personally.
More excitingly, this week on Friday morning 20th March in the UK we will experience a partial solar eclipse, (almost total sounds more fun). In Southampton (where we live) this will occur at about 09:28 with about 83% of the sun covered. Do not try to use sunglasses or anything else; looking at the sun, even during an eclipse is very dangerous and can damage your eyes. The simple and safe way to watch the process is to make a pin-hole camera, or use a small mirror to cast the image onto a plain wall. You can download the Royal Astronomical Society leaflet here.
You will need your eyes to be working at their best during the coming months to spot all the beautiful blossom that is bursting out all over the trees in Spring. This bloom will hopefully be the precursor to vast amounts of free fresh fruit, which you will then be able to access and eat. If you can’t eat it all at once you can transform it into pies,cakes, puddings, jams, cordials, chutney or anything else that comes to mind.
You should also be adding the trees locations onto the FallingFruit map, this way you and other people will be able to locate them more easily in future years.
The Urbane Forager Book Update…
Swift progress is being made during the Spring on the Urbane Forager book and we are now in the final stages of the design work.

If you want to receive updates on the progress of this project, please notify me via the contact pages here or on our community website. Then we can invite you to the book release party and you can be among the first to own a signed copy.