Friday, 15 August 2014

Hazelnuts = Happiness

Hazelnuts are a very healthy food; they can be used in many ways and recipes are easy to find. We tend to eat them just on their own or mixed with Walnuts and raisins as a healthy snack. We made delicious Hazelnut Chocolate Spread one year, which proved very popular indeed with my daughter.
I heard a BBC R4 report recently, stating that Hazelnuts are in short supply this year because the harvest has failed... in Turkey... However, if you are in the UK August/September, these super-food nuts are ripening on a bush near you gratis and they look particularly abundant this year
The signs are easy to spot, if you know what you are looking for… The Squirrels will always come early to the table and the first signs will be nibbled green shells scattering the pavements.
You can pick and eat hazelnuts when they are still green, but we prefer to wait until they are brown and falling of their own accord.
Often there will be lots on the ground after a windy or rainy day but if they are wet, you will need to dry them out, if you do not plan to eat them straight away, otherwise they will go moldy.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Blackberry Beginnings

For most of the year the bramble is seen as a cruel and invasive weed; it will grow almost anywhere, at an astonishing rate. It is capable of shredding clothing, piercing shoes and cutting soft skin to ribbons.
On our allotment there is a huge briar patch, which I thought needed taming. However, when I attempted to subdue the area and cut the brambles back with a scythe, it retaliated by growing massive stinging nettles, wrapped with bind weed. We have now come to a territorial agreement.
However, as August rears its sunny head and the school holidays arrive, people cease cursing the brambles, and start to talk fondly about Blackberry picking.
For many people the annual tradition of Blackberrying is as far as they get with foraging. For some though, it is only the beginning; the start of an exciting and multifaceted food-based adventure.
Blackberries always taste fantastic straight off the bush, they can be baked into an array of scrummy pies, cakes and puddings, and they make lovely Jams or Wine. If you don’t have the time for cooking right now, they can always be frozen and stored to use later in the year.

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