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!