Category Archives: Fruit

Foraging at Settle Stories

We have a fabulous Settle Stories Festival every year and on April 2nd I am doing a free foraging walk and talk in and around Settle Quaker Meeting House. April is a bit early for huge amounts of wild food but I will talk about some common edible plants and point out some foraging spots in central Settle.

Field of chives

There will be wild food samples too.. nettle bhajis, pesto and more!
If you would like to come please book online via the Settle Stories website

Help me out – short survey about wild food

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garden forager

The Garden Forager

The Garden Forager: Edible Delights in your Own Back Yard by Adele Nozedar is a great new addition to the growing number of wild food books. I have mentioned her Hedgerow Handbook in my blog about wild food books and this follows the same format.

Some may say this is not ‘proper’ foraging but these plants are freely available in many gardens and parks so that is fine by me! The plants in The Garden Forager really are the sort of thing that will be familiar to many people.

Common flowers like lavender, calendula, fuschia, lilac and dahlia feature in here as well as many shrubs and ornamental plants. Over 40 plants are mentioned in all including sedum, pyracantha, berberis, hosta, Japanese quince and many more.

The thing I love most about these books is the beautiful pictures by Lizzie Harper. Each one is hand drawn in black and white and then key identifying features are highlighted in colour. This makes it easy to identify things with confidence and each plant has at least one, and often several, recipes for you to try.

If you are new to foraging and want to find wild food close to home this is a great book to start with.

I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Andy Hamilton Wild Booze

Wild Booze

Writer and forager Andy Hamilton talks about Wild Booze in this BBC Food Programme on Radio 4 and leads a journey hunting for plants to make incredible drinks, and encourages us to looks again at the wild world all around us.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044bckf

Andy Hamilton is a keen forager and maker of wild booze. See more about him on his website The Other Andy Hamilton. His book Booze for Free is brilliant and full of simple (and mainly alcoholic) recipes to try.

One of his alcohol free  recipes which I do make often is a sticky willy tonic.. recipe on Forage Kent blog

P1020984Pic from Forage Kent blog

Inspired by Andy’s walks? Try making your own wild drinks with recipes from the BBC Food website: Elderflower cordial, Sloe Gin & Greengage Smash.

Or have a look at the book page for some book suggestions on brewing with herbs and foraged goodies.

aconite

Poison garden and dangerous plants

Several old monasteries and castles have medicinal or poison gardens and one of the most famous is at Alnwick Castle better known as the location for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

Poison Garden is a fantastic website from John Robertson the former Poison Garden Warden at Alnwick. It includes a vast amount of information, much of it gleaned while he was researching plants to be planted in the garden there.

Whilst many wild plants and flowers are edible some are extremely poisonous. Aconite in the picture above is also known as monkshood and is very toxic – it has very pretty purple flowers and is commonly found in gardens – the picture above was taken in a council car park!

Aconite is used in herbal medicine in many parts of the world and widely used in  homeopathy but never, ever try and make your own medicine from the fresh plant.

The Poison Garden website has an excellent A to Z of poisonous plants as well as many short videos like the one above with key identification points, folklore and uses of some of the plants.

Many poisonous plants have a great deal of folklore or old stories attached and if you would like to find out more about that sort of thing I highly recommend Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives. David Stuart has crafted a fascinating and engaging read full of  stories of poisonings, plague, medicines, mass hysteria and a wonderful insight into the role poisons play in our lives. Click on the image below and it will take you to the book on Amazon – however, I quite understand many peoples have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris UK which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.

Fruit Leather

This post originally appeared on my homeopathy website but feel it deserves repeating on here.

There is a huge amount of fruit around this year and if you are getting sick of making crumble or jam  (or still have some of last years goodies in the freezer)  then this is a great solution.

Fruit leather is effectively a kind of fruit jerky and a healthy chewy treat. I don’t add sugar but you can if you want. It is very easy to make and, if properly dried, will keep for several weeks in the fridge. In my experience it never lasts long enough to go bad!

What follows is a general guideline to making fruit leather, there is no set recipe so just see how you get on and experiment.

I used 12 pears and a baking tray approx 30cm x 50cm so you can see from the pictures how much that makes.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit  such as apples, pears, grapes, apricots, peaches, plums, berries
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar (if needed)
  • Optional spices – cinnamon and nutmeg work well with apples and pears

Method

1 Rinse the fruit. If you use stoned fruit such as plums or apricots, remove the stones and chop the fruit. If you are using apples or pears, peel and core them, then chop.

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2 Taste the fruit before proceeding and think about how sweet it is. If it is a little sharp, you may want to add some sugar in the next step.

3 Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add about half a cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher or hand blender to mash up the fruit in the pan. Add sugar or lemon juice in small amounts at this stage and keep tasting until you are happy with the flavour. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices if you wish.

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4 Continue to simmer for around 10 minutes and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened. A lot of the moisture will have gone by now and it should be more of a thick paste at this stage. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary.

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5 Line a baking sheet with cling film (the kind that is microwave safe). Do NOT be tempted to try aluminium foil or greaseproof paper.. trust me.. the fruit leather will weld itself to anything but cling film! Leave the purée to cool for a few minutes then pour into the lined baking sheet to about 0.5cm thickness.

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5 Place the baking sheet in the oven and make sure the cling film hasn’t folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won’t dry out. Heat the oven to 200°F or about 95°C. A fan oven will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes, there really is no set time as each mix will be different but 6-8 hours is probably a good guess. We usually keep it in the oven overnight for about 8-10 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, tap it with your finger to check and it will be very clear when it is done. It will darken considerably and shrink quite a bit but that is fine.

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If you have a food dehydrator you can use that.  If you live somewhere warm (not Yorkshire!) you can cover the tray with some cheesecloth or one of the mesh ‘cake cosies’ and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.

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6 When the fruit leather is ready, you can just roll it up with the cling film and store in the fridge if you want. I prefer to peel the cling film off and use scissors to cut it into squares for easy bite-sized snacks. These can be stored in a plastic tub in the fridge and will keep for several weeks but usually get eaten pretty quickly.

Enjoy :)