Thursday, 24 July 2014

Plentiful Plums

Our Plum Picknik was an outstanding success, I can confidently say that we all enjoyed ourselves and everyone took home plenty of scrumptious fruit! This is just as well because soon the whole area, including this lovely spot and the cricket pitch, is due to be "developed." The last vestiges of our valuable green space are steadily being destroyed and we all need to fight against this!
At the Picknik, we had a lovely time, the weather was fantastic, several families and individuals turned up with various implements and containers.
We set about gathering as many of the multi-coloured wild plums as we could and buckets and boxes were soon swelling with bright fruit.
We deployed young hands, children on shoulders, apple pickers, picnic blankets and some local kids even joined in by booting footballs into the trees.
There was so much abundance within easy reach that the buckets were quickly getting too heavy for the youngest children to carry.
The Plums were sweet to eat, straight off the trees, but people were also planning a vast hoard of scrumptious puddings, pies and cakes; there was enough to last a long time and still plenty left on the trees for later. If you want some, get down there soon, they might not be there next year!
By Sunday evening day my wife was making jars of delicious plum jam and by Tuesday, I was simmering a pot of gorgeous Spicy Yellow Plum Chutney over the stove with the remaining fruit.
I'm looking forward to our next event, and seeing everyone's photos of this one, even the ones where I get pelted with overripe plums, by the children...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Plum Picknik

The Usual  (Plum) Suspects
Everyone is invited to a, Plum /  Cherry-Plum / Mirabelle / Bullace / Greengage - Foraging Picknik (I don't care what they are all called, as long as they taste good). 
This event will take place this Friday evening, in Avenue Park, Stoneham. Anyone who joins us, can also take in a visit to the lovely First World War shrine in the park.
Plenty for Everyone

The event is suitable for families or adults. The lovely plums here are plentiful, they taste great straight off the tree and would equally be great for baking, jam, chutney, pies, wine etc.
Fruit pickers are handy, if you have them, but we can share and there will be plenty within reach or on the ground. You can always hold a blanket out and shake the branch. Bring a suitable container if you want to take some fruit home with you. It's always nice to bring some cake to share too.
This event will go ahead regardless of the weather ;-) so dress appropriately, bring a brolly in case or just come to see where the trees are and then come back during the weekend.

Venue: Meet in the Cricket Pitch Car Park (almost opposite the Cricketers pub), Chestnut Avenue, Eastleigh (mind the bollards if you're driving).
Date: Friday 18th July - this Friday evening.
Time: 6.00 pm 
Cost: It's all FREE!

N.B. This is a casual event, everyone is responsible for their own (and their children's) health & safety. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I Predict a Picknik

I don’t normally like to make predictions but it is looking like a great Summer for produce. Possibly this is due to the replenished water table and the warmth of spring. 
There still are loads of Cherries and I have already noticed an abundance of PlumsHazelnuts and young Apples.
When the fruit comes, it tends to come all at once, often there is simply too much to deal with. We have had learned about preservation and storing of the excess that we always get. 
You can get far greater yields by working out what to do, where to go, and by utilising the freezer better.
Plums are going to be a case in point soon; there are loads growing and I have already picked my first ripe ones of the year. 
Plums taste great and can be eaten straight off the trees, of course. They can also be used to make chutney, jam, wine, pies, prunes and a myriad of other things.

I think we will need to organise a Cherry Plum Picknik, in a couple of weeks. 
Everyone can come and fill their boots, or possibly a basket or bicycle pannier. Actually, seeing as there are so many in the trees, a car with a decent trailer might be more appropriate. More details soon-don't touch that dial!
At the allotment, our Tayberry bush went into overdrive. We have been eating them straight off the bush, out of the fridge, and with ice cream. I have also added a good load to a Kilner jar filled with gin! I confidently predict that this will become a favourite delicious Summer tipple.
The Blackberries are lining up for a good year too and I have already seen an abundance of flowers as well as plenty of unripe green berries.

Friday, 20 June 2014

I Spy Cherry Pie

We have been taking advantage of the sunny weather and collecting more Cherries in St Deny’s.
They're Big
This time the children and I found a lovely tree, laden with big fat ripe fruit that was just right for picking.
They're Tasty
We could reach some by hand and my daughter and I used pickers for the higher ones.
They're Easily Reached

My son, who enjoys climbing was placed into the lower branches, from where he scrambled up and proceeded to drop any Cherries that he could not fit into his mouth, into our pickers.
They're Coming Home!
It was only a short while before we were trooping off, back over Cobden Bridge; our faces and fingers smeared with juice and bearing our trophy of a large Tupperware box overflowing with tasty red fruit.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cherry Aid

The Elderflowers are in full bloom now and the sweet smell of pollen is in the air. So, I hope you are all making cordial and champagne
Cherries are ripening on the trees now too and you’ll need to keep a close eye on them – there’s a fine line between the bright yellow/red sharp fruit that the birds will gobble and the darker sweeter ones that we want to scoff ourselves. I even saw a squirrel gorging himself in a tree the other day!
Easy Picking
We have already been eating cherries off the earlier trees and they are very nearly there. The tree outside my office and the big one at St Deny’s Community Centre are often the first local trees to ripen and I use these as a barometer to know when to start searching in earnest.
My son and I picked a bucket-load of big fat juicy sweet ones in St. Deny’s the other day. You could see from the leaves on the ground that other people had been picking them too, which is good news because the main purpose of this blog is to promote just this kind of behaviour. I have been keeping an eye on the B&Q crop too.

Cherry Plums Ripe Soon
Of course, when it comes to cherry pickers, we have secret weapons… Our telescopic Apple pickers also work very well with cherries and plums, which will be coming soon too. We will be back in St Deny’s, fully tooled up, very soon, we spotted a tree that was absolutely laden with dangling red jewels, which were almost,  but not quite fully ripe….
I Spy Cherry Pie

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Falling Fruit - Mapping Monster

Recently, I have been working collaboratively with the Falling Fruit group. You might notice a dense cluster of links around Southampton where all of my local fruit map coordinates have now been added to their global master map. There is a permanent link to this map on my blog's left hand side bar. 

Here’s why it’s important: Falling Fruit is like Wikipedia for fruit trees. It’s an open, collaborative map of free food sources all over the planet. We have more than 600,000 locations mapped so far. People all over the world use our tool. Hundreds every day. It’s kind of unbelievable. We have no idea how that happened.

Well, maybe we do. Over the last 18 months, we have built the site entirely in our free time, devoting literally thousands of unpaid hours to its development. We’ve also paid for the hard costs (server fees, filing fees, etc.) out of our own pockets.

We believe that a giant map of free urban food sources makes a compelling argument: there is enough food to go around. Food doesn't have to be a commodity. We have the capacity to produce enough good food for everyone and a lot of it, right in the cities where the bulk of people live. We want people to experience picking an apple, or cherries for a pie, or a handful of warm mulberries on a summer day. We want to convince your city to plant more food for you, not more crepe myrtles.
If we can raise funds to develop an app, we think that we can sell it for a few bucks and use that income to permanently cover our costs. We want Falling Fruit to stay free, open, and available to all. We simply can’t afford to keep paying for everything out of pocket. As the user base has grown, the site is has become too costly to run. If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll have to use ads, or make a portion of the site not free. We don’t want to do that.

If you’ve already contributed, Thank You! So you know, you can pick a different “perk” at any time. We’ve added a number of new perks since launching the fundraiser which you might want to check out. Honey, photographic prints, cookbooks, caramel apples etc. 

If you haven’t contributed, can you help? Even if you don’t have any cash to spare, can you help spread the word?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Triangular Leeks or Wild Garlic

We visited Devon for a short break in April and as we walked around the countryside and woodland paths, we could frequently smell the pungent aroma of Wild Garlic.
There are places where whole banks are swathed with Garlic plants, many of them now in flower.
There is a plant in Devon that is related to the Wild Garlic and seen by some as an invasive weed; locals call it the Triangular Leek, it tastes and smells very similar to the garlic.
Our children like to make Garlic bread by finely chopping Wild Garlic leaves, mixing it with butter, then spreading it on toast. It makes for a very tasty substitute; we have also done this with chives that we found growing wild at our Southampton allotment, we toasted the bread on a fire this time.
Elderflowers are now blooming in the hedgerows, heralding the onset of the Summer months. Plums are ripening and I have already seen red cherries in some early trees.