Theres a chill beginning to creep into the air at Dookes H.Q..
Mornings are starting to get a bit misty, shadows are longer and heavy dew sparkles on the myriad hedgerow cobwebs.
Autumn is on its way.
Butterflies and bees are grabbing nectar from late flowering plants as the garden produces a last flush of colour before the short winter days ahead.
I love the changing seasons. In my lifetime I’ve seen how the normality of the weather is changing, so I appreciate even more those precious moments that nature gifts us. I never need much encouragement to get out in the open air and enjoy it!
Early Autumn also brings the bounty of wild food and never let it be said that Dookes turns down the chance to gather free food! What could be better than an afternoon spent foraging the hedgerows and woods for tasty seasonal treats?
The humble blackberry is probably the most popular amongst country folk, easy to find, simple to gather and makes delicious jam, jelly and deserts.
My favourite is the Sloe, the fruit of the Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa. Now finding Sloes is not always easy, despite the blackthorn being widespread in woodlands and hedgerows throughout the British Isles the trees fruit unpredictably. One year they will be groaning with the weight of fruit, the next almost barren. This irregularity is mainly due to the blackthorn’s habit of flowering very early in the year, before that leaves appear and always vulnerable to late frosts…just like we had this year!
But if you know where to look….!
The only other problem with Sloes is hinted at in the tree’s name, Blackthorn. It is covered on thick sharp spiky thorns and a harvesting foray frequently results in various wounds to your hands! The gathered fruit though has various uses, yes it makes a wonderful jelly, but by far he best thing to do with you hard won spoils is to make Sloe Gin, a warming tot on cold winter nights or a refreshing aperitif on a warm summer, or Autumnal, evening.
Catch you soon, I’m off for some more foraging!
PS Whilst I encourage anyone to look out for wild food, be careful, don’t eat something if you don’t know what it is!
You are such a gifted photographer Dookes! Your photos are stunning! Do you have a fancy camera or just a really good camera on your phone?
Having lived around cities all my life, I’ve had few experiences of “gathering” so I love hearing your tales of foraging. And sloe gin – one of my favorites in college! I was a regular imbiber of sloe gin fizzes!
I’ve enjoyed watching the Tour of Britain this week. The stages in Wales were stunning! Onto Scotland!
Oh AGMA, you are too kind, I just capture things as I see them and I don’t photoshop!
I use whatever camera is to hand really; most of my motorcycle travel shots are on a Panasonic DC-TZ200 with a Leica lens, I also use a Nikon DSLR from time to time, but the good old iPhone8 often gets used if im out cycling or don’t have the other cameras with me. The butterfly and Sloe Gin shots were both taken with the TZ, other pics in this post were on the phone.
I never take my rural life for granted, I have done the work in city years, but basically i’m a country boy at heart and living in the fresh air is what I want to do. That foraging expedition location is literally just across the lane from Dookes H.Q., from closing my front door to picking the first fruit was less than five minutes…lucky eh?
ToB was fantastic this year, only 6 seconds between first two places at the end!
Catch you soon, Dookes.
I’m also welcoming this fresher turn to the season – so much better for walking in the countryside. The summers seem to come with a hammer in the heat of them now. I have seen sloe berries in my local hedgerow and wondered what they were. You’ve cleared that mystery up, also the fact they appear one year in profusion and the next,… nothing. Sloe gin sounds like just the thing.
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Thank you Michael.
One bit of advice about Sloes, don’t try to eat them raw….they are so bitter that they will take the enamel off your teeth! Sloe gin is easy to make; put the fruit in the deep freeze the night before, then next day put about an inch and a half depth of them in the bottom of a bottle, add an equal layer of sugar and top up with gin. Give the bottle a gentle shake (I just invert it a couple of times) every day until the sugar dissolves, then put it away in a dark cupboard for at least three months and then enjoy! It gets better with age if you leave the sloes in it.
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