At this time of year the hedgerows are, as the saying goes, "groaning with free food". You just have to go out and help yourself to it! This is exactly what I did on Friday.
Last weekend we went out for lunch to a country pub, and on the way home through the lanes I noticed a plum tree laden with fruit. This Friday I went back to that place and picked some of the plums:
It turned out to be not just one plum tree, but a whole line of them, absolutely laden with ripe fruit, and easily accessible too. I could hardly believe my luck. In the space of half an hour I picked 12.5kgs!
The plums were mostly of two types - some red and some yellow.
If I had wanted to, I could easily have picked 50kgs. It was hard to know when to stop!
As I was loading the trug-tub full of plums into the car, I noticed these:
They are Sloes, a close relative of the plum. You wouldn't want to eat them raw because they are incredibly tart and astringent, but they are great in a Hedgerow Jelly, as well as being the vital ingredient of Sloe Gin. Fortunately I was well prepared, and had in the car a container in which to collect a few, along with a handful of Blackberries.
Most of the Blackberries were under-ripe, but there were enough to be worthwhile if you looked carefully.
While I was gathering the Sloes and Blackberries, my eye lit upon these:
They are Elderberries, of course. I just HAD to collect some!
If I had been into brewing I would probably have gathered a few of these too. They are Hops:
With plans for making jams, jellies and chutneys chasing each other round my brain, I drove home and more or less straight away phoned my friend Rosemary, who has a big Bramley apple tree in her garden. A short while later, a couple of kilos of Plums were traded for a couple of kilos of cooking-apples.
Apples are an important ingredient in many jams and jellies, because they contain high levels of pectin (which helps the jelly to set), and hedgerow fruit usually has only low levels of pectin.
I'll show you what I made with all this fruit in a post in a couple of days' time...