Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wild food from the park – October

We were really into the swing of things by October in our ‘Wild Food from the Park’ mission, finding interesting ways of using what wild food was still around (well, interesting to us at any rate). We managed to gather a few late brambles, just as the rose hips and sloes began to appear and, with a cup of the remaining honeysuckle blossom, boiled that lot up, strained it, added sugar, boiled it again until the setting point was reached, and made a few jars of a very dark red ‘Autumn’s end’ jelly. Truth be told, I slightly overdid it, and boiled it a bit long, so let’s call it a very firm jelly. It’s easily meltable though, so it won’t be wasted, as a glaze, a hot cordial, a syrup for ice cream, etc.

Autumn’s end jelly ingredients – brambles, rose hips, sloes and honeysuckle

And I almost forgot that we also produced a batch of rowan jelly, a real staple of Autumn wild harvesting, and a great compliment to venison (and to loads of things really – we’ve also eaten it with roasted vegetables and with beef curry before). We tend to use it quite sparingly and only just finished the last jar of rowan jelly from 2007 (which was the last time we had made it). The huge bunches of bright red rowan berries are one of the first and most visible signs of approaching Autumn and this year, in our local park, King’s Park, which is rich with rowan trees, most of the rowan trees had HUGE crops of berries. 

King’s Park rowan berries

A large bowlful of rowan berries, cleaned of stalks, leaves and with the occasional beautiful shield bug liberated out of the kitchen window,

....and ready for cooking up:

The final product – 2011 King’s Park rowan jelly – but all those berries to make only five wee jars once the boiled pulp is strained then boiled with sugar!

October also provided us with some local wild mushrooms, although not from the King’s Park (where we could have harvested, but didn’t, some more jelly ear fungus). A nearby wood where we have been collecting chanterelles for 20 years is slowly being felled – it is a commercial conifer plantation – and the felled edge is now only about 25 metres away from our lovely productive chanterelle site. We managed to pick half a kilo of chanterelles for what I fear may be the last time, as I think this wood will be gone one a few months time (if it hasn’t already gone ). In that same wood, we also found some fine hedgehog mushrooms – these all found their way into various pasta dishes in October.

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