The season for birch tapping will soon be upon us and I’ll be heading out to gather some of this delicious natural nectar. Whilst I rifle around in our shed looking for the hand drill and collect wood to make taps and bungs on the lathe, you can get a few tips and tricks from a little foraging piece I’ve written for one of my favourite magazines – The Simple Things.
We’ve been winkling out the last of the blackberries from the hedgerows around our home and turning them into jam! Ah jam… swirled into porridge, spread on toast, dolloped on scones. So delicious, but usually loaded with sugar. Enter chia jam… just as tasty, just as pretty and no refined sugar in sight, so it’s a whole load better for you, plus all those tiny chia seeds are packed with protein for extra oomph. Hooray for healthier jam!
I hope you don’t think I’m cheating by including something in our ‘Allotment A-Z’ that doesn’t actually grow on our allotment, although it does grow just beside our allotment fence! I thought about ‘eggplant’ (aubergine here in the UK) and endive, but I honestly find our elder tree more useful than both those crops, so here we are…
The elder tree or shrub is one of my absolute foraging favourites and can be found growing pretty much anywhere in the UK. It has distinctive frothy ‘sprays’ of creamy-white flowerheads in spring and bunches of dark purple-black berries in autumn. Both the flowers and the berries are brilliantly useful in the kitchen.
‘E’ is most definitely for Elder…
The health and happiness of our little flock is top priority to us. I think our girls live a near perfect free-range life in the allotment garden – they’re free to come and go from their coop whenever they like, there are lots of different herbs growing in the run for them to peck at, there’s lots of space, lots of greenery and big bushes that offer protection from the sun, wind and rain. If I could speak chicken, I think they’d tell me that they’re very happy….and happy hens lay happy eggs.
Happy hens are healthier too. In our experience there are a few simple things that can make a big difference to your hens health – fresh water, fresh food and a spot of ‘dust bathing’!
We’ve been foraging in the woods, hedgerows and fields around our house for years! Gathering wild food is great fun and hugely rewarding, but you do have to be VERY, VERY careful about what you pick. Either go with someone who knows what they’re doing or take a detailed foraging guide book with you to safely identify plants, seeds, berries and mushrooms BEFORE you eat them.