Driving down to Essex this morning, I was enjoying the May (Hawthorn) blossom, the blue skies and sunshine, when I suddenly realised we are just on the brink of all blossom bursting out in the hedgerows. Most of this blossom will turn into fruit which in its turn can be picked for fruit gin, wine, jelly, chutney and jam.
Blossom is much easier to spot in the hedgerows than fruit. As I purred along at the wheel of a companionable Jalopy, I suddenly realised that if I can identify the blossom of the fruit I particularly like, I can easily find new hunting grounds to add to my autumn picking trips. And all from the luxury of a heated Jalopy. It’s best to avoid major roads if you are going to try this. Hedgerows in country lanes are less polluted. Even better, make a note of fruit for the future on your walks.
Tomorrow morning I’m going to check my favourite wild fruit trees in the village to see if they are flowering. Once they are blossoming, it will be easy to spot similar specimens on my travels. I need to keep my foraging notebook by my side. The autumn is a long way away and it’ll be easy to forget exactly where I noticed sloe, bullace and wild damsons in flower. May blossom is one of the earliest to appear so it may be a few weeks before I can identify the flowers of my favourite hedgerow fruit.
Last autumn, most of the fruit for our concoctions was free. Donated by hedgerows that were heavy with fruit. All our demijohns were full of fermenting wine so we only needed fruit for our preserves and fruit gin. Generally, 5-6 lbs of fruit makes a gallon of country wine. This year, with a bit of canny research and mapping over the next few weeks, the hedgerows should produce all the fruit that we need and more.
My mum gave me a large pocket edition of Richard Mabey’s Food for Free this Christmas. My copy has just been slipped into Jalopy’s glove compartment for reference in the field, as I’m bound to spot other tempting delights when I ease open her creaky door to venture onto the verge.
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