Tuesday, 17 July 2012

plums et al.

July marks the start of the plum season....so keep an eye out in the hedgerows for them in this usual order from July through to October.

1)from mid July - greengages - juicy and tart - great for chutneys and jams
2)July into Aug - cherry plums - small and juicy
3)from Late Aug - victorias (usually escapee trees self seeded from gardens) - delicious torn open with your thumbs when fully ripe
4)from Sep - damsons - perfect jam
5)Sep onwards - sloes/blackthorns - perfect from pricking and steeping in alcohol

And as it's July...here's the low hanging fruit off one of our favourite wild greengage trees.

These will be made into a couple of jar's of jam, and also - they curiously the jam we made last year with them tastes a bit like Mango Chutney, so we're going to spice up a batch of the jam and throw in a token mango to make some hedgerow curry chutney.


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Cheriton Hill to Etchinghill via Summerhouse Hill

A day of hills along the North Downs Way, back down to Eltham Valley Way, round Summerhouse Hill, and back up the steep sided Downs above the channel tunnel terminal.

on today's list, the wet spell has kept the fungi season going.

Jews Ear Fungus

And the wild apples along the Eltham Valley link road behind the Channel Tunnel are swelling nicely with all this rain.

And for the perfect addition to home made pasta and pizza sauces - wild marjoram - now more obvious now it is coming into flower - pick and rub it - it's aroma is unmistakably mediterranean

The North Downs and Pilgrims Way are covered in it, a wonderful reminder of the paths taken by our invading latin ancestors.

PS - my next article in AWalkingInTheGarden is due out next month  - subscribe now.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Preview of a forage with "The Minnis" Chefs

A couple of months back, via twitter, the Chef's at The Minnis - Birchington asked if I would take them out for a sea shore forage, to see what there might be on offer to tempt their taste buds.

As a combination of weather, other plans, and tide times have scuppered efforts so far, I managed to sneak past one evening and did a little "test forage".

So, in advance of our foraging wander, here's the sort of things we might find this summer - there were plenty more - but only passed by on a cycle, so snapped the more obvious ones.

Above the tide line

Behind the beach huts are big patches of Purslane.

Sea Purslane - wonderful succulent leaves - eat raw in a crunchy well dressed salad, or like Samphire, briefly blanch and serve in a warm salad with a simple vinaigrette.

Down the steep banks from the foot patch to the sea look out for mallow

it's gelatinous leaves can be deep fried to make green crips - perfect bar snacks
or used in soups as thickeners, as when boiled exude their gelatinous protein rich mucilage (often used in middle east/north african soups and stews)
it's pretty pink flowers used in salads, and even the seed heads later which resemble small round cheeses before they ripen.

Along the footpath by the cabins are also some herbs - patch of spear mint growing happily

Bladder campion - worth coming back to next spring for the sweet young shoots and leaves

All along this grassy bank are ox eye daisies (young leaves, unopened flower heads chopped in salads, or flowers, petals added later) most of the common "greens/wild leaves" & thistles.

Below the tide line

Sea Weeds

bright green Sea-lettuce is abundant in the rock pools of the chalk reef, as are dulse, bladder wracks, and the odd frond of kelp in the deep water.  salads to sushi via stir-fries - take your pick.

Shell fish - (although the water's a little warm to guarantee quality during summer months in Kent, and they should be left to breed in peace)

native oysters - though observe minimum sizes (these are all too small)
and also winkles by the bucket load - For the patient ones amongst us - boil up a bucket of winkles, then pick them out with a pin for a mini snail feast

Pacific Rock Oysters (foreign imports - invasive - so no minimum size - fill your buckets!)
best used shucked, and cooked - wrapped and grilled (http://foragersnook.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/wild-oysters-marsh-samphire.html) - or added to paella's, or even Beef and Oyster stew or pies - for a taste of old London town.

in deeper waters there are also mussels - perfect for a winter paella.

and don't forget to turn the rocks carefully - a bucket of big shorecrabs makes a scrimpers version of lobster bisque - pick out the larger claw meat once boiled, blitz the rest, strain, and follow any good receipe for a lobster bisque.

The rock pools are also teaming with little shrimps - with a net, worth a bit of fun catching the bigger ones, boil and pick from the shells for sweet tasty morsels.