That classic Autumn activity, bramble picking. A first childhood foray in to foraging for many, the picking of blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) is an activity full of taste nostalgia and scratched forearm memories. One afternoon the family ‘bramble ramble’ was rapidly interrupted by the worst midges of the season and a hasty retreat was made back home.
As to midges, this year, there was an unusual third hatching. In a normal year the midges hatch only twice but in 2018, a late first hatching due to a cold year’s start and prolonged warm conditions thereafter made for the extra flurry in September rather than in nine months’ time (read more here). What a joy.
One of the most lovely autumnal foraged flavours is the burnt orange and tangerine smells of hogweed seeds (Heracleum sphondylium). September and October are time to fill a jar or two for use into the next year. Having been introduced to them as a baking spice by Mark Williams this is mostly how they are used at home. However, there have been experiments here with hogweed sherbet. Something nice to rim a cocktail class with. As ever, be sure to identify this member of the carrot family with care as close relatives can be very toxic.
More on common hogweed here
Another classic Autumn forage are sloes from the Blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa). Most commonly associated with the home experimenter’s sloe gin, sloe vodka or even sloe whisky they are oft prized and picking spots coveted. This year it seems to be that they are in much greater abundance certainly more than the previous three years.
The rusty, coral seed heads of the dock (Rumex obtusifolius) were wildly eye-catching home. The contrast against the cream yellow of the grass below was astounding. Part of buckwheat family, dock seeds can in fact be dried and used like buckwheat, read more on this in Jane’s previous article here.
The hazel (Corylus avellana) trees are starting to turn in the woods. Not just from wind burn but the temperature has taken a noticeable run down the thermometer. After a couple of big gales the windfall from the hazel trees has been good for the occasional pocket of hazelnuts to take home and crack by the fire of an evening. While a troop of us may have a pocketful each we made sure to leave enough for the woodland critters to gather for the winter.