Thursday, 29 August 2013

Hazelnuts Ahoy

Green Hazelnuts are beginning to fall now and they are also being snacked upon by the grey squirrels. 
Although I far prefer the nuts when they are ripe and dropping to the ground of their own accord; these signs are always a smart way to detect where the best, biggest brown backed beauties will be falling in a couple of weeks’ time

Friday, 23 August 2013

Bramble Bushes Bursting with Beautiful Big Blackberries

It’s that time of year again!

Big, fat juicy Blackberries are currently ripening on the commons, parks, hedgerows and gardens all over the place.
Most of the year Brambles are nothing more than a pain in the… Well, it depends on where they have snagged you really.
But come the hot and hazy days of Summer, especially during August the briers suddenly become our nation’s favourite plant.
Conveniently this splendid event occurs during the school holidays and wise families all over the country set out with suitable boxes and bags, often backed up with a picnics and bottles of drink.
They return later, tired and happy, smeared in juice, proudly displaying their battle scars of stinging nettle and thorn assaults.
The rewards are full boxes and bags, now bursting with berries, ready to be eaten, frozen or cooked into some delicious pudding or preserve. The best way to freeze blackberries is to lay them on a baking tray in the freezer, then transfer them into bags once frozen hard. This keeps the individual fruits separate and easy to apportion for future use.
What’s not to like?
Get out there now!
It looks as if there might be a bumper crop this year of Hazelnuts and Walnuts some Hazelnuts are already ripe.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Mulberry Murder Mystery

While on holiday in sunny Devon recently, we visited Greenways – Agatha Christie’s House, near Dartmouth. We got a small ferry over the Dart river from Dittisham (another lovely place) and clambered up the hill to the house.

A Jay's Feather and a Mulberry
 I was wandering about the massive garden with the children when we spotted a Mulberry tree. Closer inspection revealed that many of the fruits were ripe, and so, purely in the spirit of the National Trust’s (who  own the house) 50 things to do before you’re Eleven and Three-quarters – we set about picking and eating as many of the sweet juicy fruit as we could lay our fingers on. Later we checked out another big Mulberry tree, in Salcombe too. 
These fruits are easy to find under the leaves of the tree but they can be tricky because a) They do not all ripen at once. b) The ripe ones are likely to drop off as soon as you shake the tree. c) The blood red, honeyed juice gets everywhere can make it look as if you might, just have slaughtered someone with your bare hands! 
The reward, for those who recognise the trees, bother to find the ripe fruit and risk the suspicious stares of passers-by, as they note the incriminating evidence, guiltily smeared across your mouth and fingers; is an incredibly luscious berry, tasting something like a syrupy blackberry/raspberry cross.
When we got home we found another tree in Winchester and I decided to try creating Mulberry liquor. I used gin and my surplus berries but I had to fight the children off, to prevent a Mulberry massacre; they would have scoffed the lot straight away if I had relented. I will report back on this project later but I do already have a very good feeling about it. 
Murder She Wrote!
 There is a Mulberry tree in the Southampton parks too, for those who know where and when to look…

Definately Guilty!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Elderflower Champagne – The Rules

After my initial bacterial disaster, my new batch of Elderflower Champagne is like a force of nature; it is the perfect drink for an English summer heat-wave. Personally, I think that if it opens with a big bang, a lost cork and a 2 metre frothy fountain, leaving only half-a-glass-worth to drink at the bottom of the bottle; then it is probably ready!
I had to unload several bottles into a bucket in the back garden, just to stop them making a dangerous mess. My neighbour Sue helped me with this procedure and both of us got a little bit wet in the process. In fact, I hear that her kitchen got a little bit wetter later on, when she cracked a bottle open at home. Flip top bottles can make easing the pressure easier but the potential for mistakes becomes greater due to their slippery and fiddly nature.

Important rules for Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne.
  • The first rule of Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne is that Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne does not exist.
  • The second rule of Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne is that we never openly discuss Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne.
  • The third rule of Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne… open it outside, unless you want your house decorated with Urbane Forager Explosive Elderflower Champagne.
  • Rule 4. Pressure safe bottles!
  • Rule 5. Ease the pressure regularly!

We are still getting many a sandwich box full of Hedge End cherries safely delivered home, from work in my bike pannier. I just pop out at lunchtime and pick a fresh load each day and they are avidly consumed by our hungry children. You would think they had been starved by the way they gobble them down.
Blackberries are just about to be ready; my daughter grabbed her first black one yesterday and it looks like they will be more than abundant this year. Plums are slowly ripening on the branches but they seem to have not fared so well, due to the late spring. Hazelnuts are looking bountiful this summer too. I have seen vast amounts weighing the branches down near me; I think they may be early this year too.