Some people decry foraging as dangerous but we have a simple rule that prevents any risk: Only pick or eat things that you recognise and know to be safe. Obvious really and astonishing that any doubters cannot think of that too. However, even taking fundamental precautions cannot save you from getting stung by Nettles, stabbed by thorns or twisting your ankle by stepping down an unseen rabbit hole.
My seasonal collaboration with the Unity brewing Co, helping to create a range of Saison Ales, seems to have led me into dangerous territory, right from the start.
- For the Spring beer - Primtemps we needed to pick Stinging Nettles!
- Next we gathered Elderflowers for the Summer brew - Ete (no fear there).
- For the Autumn we chose Juniper Berries for the Automne Ale and these are always painfully prickly to pick.
- Finally, to complete our first year together, I am fighting my way with frost bitten fingers, through scythe-like thorns, as I harvest Rosehips or Haws for the Winter beer - Hiver.
At this time of year, Rosehips are the jewels of the hedgerows. They are know for being packed with Vitamin C - ideal for fighting off infection and boosting the immune system, which is just as well because my hands been punctured so many times collecting them that I might soon need a transfusion myself.
Rosehips can also be used for creating syrups, cordials, jellies and even tea. In fact the Dog Rose was apparently so named because people believed that its application could help you to recover from rabies, if bitten by a mad dog. Of course, all bad school children know that the inner contents of these ruby red haws, can also create some of the nastiest itching powder on the planet!
Tradition holds that you should gather Rosehips after the first frost, the same advice is often given for Sloes because the structure of the fruit is broken down by the freezing temperature. By coincidence, I started picking Haws during my lunch hour after the coldest night of the year, my fingers were frozen but they picked easily and smelled fruity, so the Hiver Ale should be super tasty.