Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A productive few weeks ... ...

I've been meaning to update this blog for a while, finally got round to it, so I thought I'd ramble on about how we have been getting on with things.
You may have read about our exploits foraging for things, and the comments we've had from people, we haven't received any more thankfully, and I still feel quite sad about it, mainly because the children of these people will miss out on a wealth of knowledge and experience, but not only that there's the heritage, will they ever learn that foraging for food in this country has been going on for many many years ? for example when Julius Caesar landed in Britain he and his troops had to forage for food, so if they hadn't known what to look for they might have not survived, but enough about that.

As the title suggests it's been a productive few weeks, and to be honest this has been our most productive year in terms of actually putting the things we wanted to into practice, of course we have had to get set up for various things, but we have been lucky and found a lot of the things we needed on free cycle, or for a low price, we like being thrifty, makes things more fun.

So where to start ? well for the second year we have had a bumper crop of black currants, this resulted in making a couple of batches of fantastic ice cream.

We do have white and red currants, but haven't had anything from them this year, hopefully next year we will have 3 different types of currant, all home grown.

Our blackcurrants.

We have grown our own veg for a couple of years, since we've had a larger garden really, but this year we have tried to grow more, extra pea plants for example, although this is more so that we can actually get some peas before the kids eat them all :-) and next year we are planning to grow even more.
Our kids enjoy being able to go into the garden and pick raspberries, or pull up a carrot or 2 (my son takes great delight in this) it's not all about the food though, kids can learn a great deal from growing your own veg, you don't even need a big garden, you can grow things in plastic tubs if you don't have much space, what's stopping you ?

My lovely wife has been busy too, she has made some great courgette relish, there was 2 medium jars of it, but it seems I may have eaten rather a lot, well it's very tasty, if you're interested in the recipe you can find it here - courgette relish (link opens in a new window)

The relish before I started to chow down on it.

This is something else we have started to experiment with, it's all well and good growing your own food, but what do you do with it ? well anything you want really, if you need a recipe for tomato sauce,or some kind of relish, or jam then you can find a wealth of information on line, google is your friend :-)
Jam is something else we have made this year, our first time, my granddad used to make jam all the time, and out of all sorts of odd things, we haven't been that adventurous, but we have a good stock of nice jam for over winter, blackberry jam is great, we also have apple and plum jam (the plums and apples were foraged for, as were the blackberries) we also made crab apple jelly (which is like jam without the bits) it's really good on toast :-)

Making your own jams and other foods is a great experience, and you know what goes into it, you don't need to grow your own stuff either, just go out and check the hedgerows for berries, you can make jams from all sorts of things, blackberries, rowan berries (these need to be cooked before you eat them) and other things, it maybe worth while investing in a good book that shows what plants are what, and how they can be used, this one is a good one to add to your collection, there are other books along this line as well.

Blackberry jam,plum and apple jam and crab apple jelly.

Left to right - Crab apple jelly,plum & apple jam, blackberry jam.

We did have our own plums this year, which was a nice surprise as we have only had the tree for a few months (about 6 months I think) we got it for a pound (yes just a quid) and it's only just over 2 feet tall, it was in a garden centre reject section (where they sell of the half dead plants) and it looked well, half dead, but it soon perked up after we gave it some tlc, this is a good tip by the way, just because a plant looks half dead doesn't always mean it is, so have a good look in the bargain plant section before shelling out a load on a plant that looks healthy (it may not be)

Our plums from our baby plum tree.

Home grown plums, should get more next year.

Our wine making facility.

Blackberry wine, we've since added wild plum wine as well.

You can make other stuff as well, for example one thing we have tried using our foraged produce is fruit leathers, which is basically a sweet hard fruit jelly kind of thing, they are great for kids, and as natural as you can get, they consist of fruit and a little sugar to taste, and that's it, then all you do is turn them into a purée and dry them out for a few hours, you can do this in a oven or a dehydrator.

Fruit leathers.

Left to right - Apple,blackberry.

I have to say that even though we have had derogatory remarks while blackberry picking, and even though I got scratched,stung and covered in mud getting apples it has been great fun, we have experimented and next year we will do things on a larger scale, and try and forage more and make more from what we have. We have found that there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had, knowing that you did everything from start to finish, you found the food, or grew it, you made the jam, or wine, and strangely it makes everything taste even better.

And not only that all through the various things we have done our kids have been by our sides, watching and helping, asking questions about things, looking at how we do things, they have had great fun helping to collect berries, and seen some interesting wildlife, the best being lizards, yes we do get lizards in England, and you might be surprised to know that not a lot of people know that you can find lizards in this country, which is a shame, and shows that kids and adults are loosing touch with nature.

My son was extremely pleased to have seen lizards while we were out on one of our foraging trips, and I even managed to carefully catch a baby one so he could see it close up, seeing the look of wonder on his face was priceless, my daughter was equally excited by it.

Here's the picture of a baby common lizard I caught for my son to look at, we let it go again, where we found it.

Isn't it fantastic !

Well enough of my rambling, but before I go I have to say get out there, look for berries, look for wildlife, teach your kids, and hey you might learn something as well, take books with you for identifying things (you can find reference books in most libraries) and may your travels be as productive as ours.

Thanks for reading.

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