Saturday, 17 September 2011

English fields and hedgerows

In late Summer and early Autumn, our English fields and hedgerows are absolutely bursting with flowers, seeds and berries. This post attempts to convey the sense of abundance that is all around us at this time of year.

These are Elderberries (Sambucus Nigra). They are not nice to eat raw, but you can use them to make wine, or jam, or to add depth of flavour to Blackberry and Apple pie. In the Spring, the flowers are traditionally used to make a cordial, sometime referred to as Elderflower Champagne.

These are Sloes (Prunus Spinosa). The tiny plum-like fruits are very tart and astringent when raw, but in England we use them to make Sloe Gin, a delicious liqueur made by steeping Sloes in gin or vodka, sometimes with the addition of a little sugar. When I make Sloe Gin I always prick each fruit to help the juice come out. The resulting liqueur is the colour of Rosé wine. It is something I always associate with Christmas, since Sloes are best picked after the first frosts (which enhance their flavour and reduce their astringency), and the gin is needs to be matured for a few weeks.

These are Hawthorn (Crataegus) berries. Humans don't eat them, but the birds love them.

These are Ivy (Hedera) flowers, which will eventually produce black berries. These too are attractive to the birds, especially since they last for a long time and are still available when all the softer berries have been consumed. I often see Blackbirds eating the Ivy berries.

These are Guelder Rose (Viburnum Opulus) berries. The berries are mildly toxic and more known for their medicinal qualities than as a food item.

These are the seeds (or "keys") of the Ash tree (Fraxinus).

This is what we call Lords and Ladies or Cuckoopint (Arum Maculatum). The berries are poisonous to humans, but many birds like them - especially pheasants, I believe.

Many of the pastures are full of Clover, which is used as a green manure and for animal fodder.

This is Cow Parsley. Most often the flowers are white, but I saw quite a few pink or purple-coloured ones, which are somehow more attractive.

This a Buttercup flower (Ranunculus Repens), another plant that is very common in pasture land, especially in damp areas near rivers.

I haven't taken any photos of Blackberries. What a serious omission! Blackberries are probably THE most characteristic feature of our Autumn hedgerows. Still, I expect most of you already know what a Blackberry looks like...


  1. Funny boy...I thought you had a sponsor for a moment! I loved the hedged lanes when I was driving through the country in England all those years agoe. Beautiful and practical!

  2. Beautiful photo's. It looks like 'Berry Heaven' for the birds.

  3. I remember playing with the ash pods when I was little, shredding them part way then spinning them down like helicopters. And eating them too! Oh dear I think I used to eat everything I found in hedgerows too. I miss them. Thanks for sharing your pics. Making me all nostalgic!

  4. What lovely berry pictures! I liked your blackberry inclusion. I thought you'd been spammed for a moment. Sadly around where I live, I think its easier to spot blackberries than it is the natural kind.

  5. You have a good sense of humor, Mark!
    I know we can enjoy the sweet taste of some berries while I sometimes get call from my boss with new hard jobs on "Blackberry".

  6. Great post Mark, the OH went along our track last week and picked blackberries (the edible kind) and I have put them in the freezer to wait for the next picking in the hope that we will have enough to make a batch of jam. I think I may have sloes in my garden, I'm off to investigate (when I've had my cup of tea) but I'm not sure I will do anything with them this year even if there are enough to make sloe gin. Too much going on at the moment!

  7. Too funny! But I do love all the other berries!

  8. Great pictures!! I simply love your blog.. it has inspired me to do some gardening myself. Anyway, just to point out, hawthorn berries can be eaten. The chinese would usually put them into a stick and coat them with sugar syrup. The medicinal benefits of hawthorn is that it aid digestion, helps with weight lost.

    Over here in Malaysia, one can easily buy the dried up slices of hawthorn to boil with water for a good detox and help in managing weight. Of course, we dont have the fresh ones like they have in China.. but I have tried those in Shanghai and the taste is very tart and crunchy. Making it a very addictive snack when coated with syrup.


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