Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Cherry Picknik Anyone?

Can't Reach These!

I went out for a walk around the area of Hedge End where we picked our cherries last time and was pleased to note that there were plenty more close by waiting to be gathered.
Big Sweet Red and Juicy

I also found a tree with some tasty larger cherries by the side of the path, so I decided to spend a little time seeing how many I could reach. It was a bit tricky because I had no picker and there were lots of stinging nettles but I grabbed a bagful anyway.
My Fruity Lunchbox

I also noticed on my rounds that baby hazel nuts are now visible, although not nearly ready for picking. That will have to wait a month or two yet.
A Nut Cluster 

However, the cornucopia of Cherry Plums, Mirabelle’s, Bullace, Greengages etc. (cue long list of different and confusing names) are looking bountiful and they look as if they will ripen in a week or two. Rest assured, I’ll be keeping my eye on them.
Pluckable Plums

Till then, if anyone fancies a Cherry Picknik in Hedge End (close to the railway station), please register your interest here, by email or on the Facebook, Mansbridge Community Orchard page.

The Tester Passes Verdict

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sweet as Cherry Pie

You know Summer has truly arrived when you are picking cherries. This fact is still true, even if it is the wettest June on record.

Someone Has Beaten Us To It

We braved the showery weather and nipped out to see what we could get. First stop was the tree where I work in Hedge End but most of these had been eaten by birds ;-(
We did get a few here though and I enjoyed watching the kids test the cherries on the adjacent tree, which look lovely but taste quite foul  - I did warn them but maybe they didn’t believe me because they tried them anyway.
Then we spotted another tree full of fairly small ripe looking fruit. These were delicate, almost translucent cherries and they tasted good to eat. This put a smile on our faces and we set about picking/eating as many as we could.


It wasn’t long before it started raining again but by this point we had already bagged ourselves a couple of Kilos. So, it was back to base with our fruity booty; we checked out a few other potential trees on our way home.
Expect further cherry related exploits and recipes in the near future as the various trees ripen and we dual, hand to wing if necessary with our avian adversary. Till then, it’s cherries all round during the annual disappointment of Wimbledon.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Tasty Truffles

Last Sunday my daughter bought me some “truffles” as a Father’s Day gift. They were delicious but I found myself thinking that they tasted not unlike, our own homemade Hazelnut Chocolate Spread.
Yum! - Hazelnuts!
Last year we nearly destroyed our blender trying to create this stuff but it sure was tasty. A quick glance at the truffle ingredients confirmed that they were indeed made out of similar constituent parts. Experimentation was bound to follow…
Yum!  - Hazelnut Cocolate Spread!
We scooped out small amounts of the stiff spread and rolled them into balls. Then we trundled them about in a bowl of cocoa powder to prevent them from sticking to our fingers and each other. Next my daughter (the official tester) felt that she really ought to sample them. I was pretty sure what the result would be and yes, the outcome received a resounding thumbs up.
Yum! - the Urbane Forager's Truffles...
So that’s two recipes for the price of one; as well as a homemade gift idea!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Midsummer Cherries

As this rubbish summer tries its level best to break through, cherry trees are starting to look much more tempting. The Solstice occurs this week; it seems inconceivable that the nights will be drawing in after this…
As the cherries ripen on the branches, it will be a straight race between the humans and the birds to see who gets the best of the crop. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your favourite trees; the trouble is that the birds will tend to eat the fruit before they are properly ripe.
A lot of trees that I have noticed have small cherries on them this year. Also, many seem to have something eating the upper leaves; some seem to be missing the top third of their canopy. To cap it all, the strong winds have damaged some of the recently ripe fruit. The pictures here are from the industrial estate where I work and you can see the stone inside one cherry.
Fortunately, the kids and I still have a couple of brilliant trees, loaded with fat juicy beauties, waiting in the wings. Maybe this weekend we can give the birds a run for their money, if it stops raining for long enough...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Elder, Elder Everywhere

Elderflowers are easy to identify and are said to herald in the Summer. Well, you could have fooled me - it was the coldest, wettest, windiest and foggiest half term holiday since records began!
Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No, It's an Elder Bush!
However, we remained undaunted and were soon out gathering a bagfull of the best Elderflower heads. We left plenty to develop into berries, not that this is really significant - Elderflowers are just about everywhere at the moment.
Our first expedition was to make Elderflower Cordial, my daughter’s favourite drink. We were in Devon at the time on a short break but the first bushes were spotted after only a short walk.
Mmmmm, Fragrant!
It only took us a moment to collect enough and then rush back to begin preparation and within a short time we were all guzzling away at this sweet, delicate summertime drink.
The next foray was back on Southampton Common; it was raining this day, so the children chose to wear sensible shoes in the form of roller-skates!
And They're Off
There are Elderflower bushes all over the common and they are currently in flower; the kids started spotting them as soon as they arrived. Consequently, it took no time at all to gather enough (you only need a few flower heads), so there was plenty of time to zoom about on wheels in the wet.
Clare Joined Us On Two Wheels
With this batch we are making Elderflower Champagne, a delicious and simple to make summer evening drink. Just be sure to store it in suitable (pressure safe) bottles, otherwise you might get some unwelcome explosions.
All Over The Common
Recipes for both drinks can be found here…
Currently Fermenting Away Nicely
Where we were staying, we couldn’t find any Citric Acid for our cordial (used as a preservative - obtained from chemist), nor did we measure out the other ingredient’s very accurately but it tasted lovely anyway.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wild Strawberries

During a recent break in Devon we discovered a meadow nearby that was filled with wild strawberries.
The children were delighted as they love these precious jewels – they hunt them down like hidden treasure.
We have propagated some plants in our garden at home and they spread like wildfire and will grow almost anywhere.
Once the season is upon us the kids need no encouragement, they zoom outdoors first thing in the morning to hunt down the ripest fruits. Most get eaten straight off the plant but any survivours are only saved long enough to be dropped into their breakfast cereal.
They are the first fruits available to the Urbane Foraging family; they taste sweet and strong and they are a naturally healthy addition to other foods.
Just About One Mouthfull!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Rainwater Irrigation System

When it was raining every day during spring and we were simultaneously being told that drought conditions meant countrywide hosepipe bans would be required, my mind turned to the undeniable logic of rain collection and water-buts.
We have a workshop/shed at the top of our garden and I set about fitting gutters to the eves to collect the rain water. Fitting the gutters was actually far easier that I imagined it would be and was almost fun, despite the weather.
Finding water buts in stock was less easy, it seemed everyone had reached the same conclusion but eventually I found and purchased a large capacity one that would fit behind the shed. I channelled the water into the but and it was duly filled to the brim, within a week.
The next part of my project was running a hosepipe down from the reservoir, to irrigate our raised-bed vegetable plot; this is gravity assisted because the garden is on a slope.
I then learned about semi-porous hoses that can be used for watering gardens. I bought one of these, embedded it around the raised bed and then added it to the end of my device.
The end result was very satisfactory indeed; when the tap on the but is turned on, the water gradually beads out of the buried hose, thus watering the parched veg. Interestingly, my activities seem to have had an effect on the children and they have been creating ingenious contraptions of their own for watering hard to reach plants.
Now all I need to do is patent the Porous Irrigation Soaker System and think of a good marketing acronym. Well, perhaps not, but hopefully, this means that if we go away on holiday, I can just turn the tap on a small amount and my peas, spinach and garlic will all still be alive on our return…