Making the Most of Wild Fruit
It’s that time of year again when hedgerows are usually teaming with blackberries. Children and their parents will be venturing outside to pick this delicious fruit, and with the previous three seasons combining to produce a bumper crop this year, there’ll be plenty to go around. But what of the other fruits of the forest? Well, visitors to the recent ‘Foraging & Fire-Lighting’ workshop at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Arundel Wetland Centre learnt from bushcraft expert, Jonathan Huet, that there is an abundance of other wild produce that often gets overlooked but can be put to equally good use.
Rose hips, hawthorn berries and elderberries are found along most hedgerows and can be easily cooked to create tasty, vitamin-rich syrup that makes for an ideal natural sweetener or topping. Here’s a quick guide on how to make wild berry syrup:
- Wash and mash the berries, then add sugar with water and bring them to the boil for a few minutes taking care not to cook them for too long. Adding a few blackberries to your mix will thicken the syrup due to the natural pectin they contain.
- Strain the cooked berries through a muslin cloth to filter the syrup and then discard the leftover pulp. The syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge, but this timespan will be reduced if honey rather than sugar is used in the cooking process.
Tips for wild fruit picking
- When out foraging for wild fruit, remember to take care about where and what you harvest. You won’t have to venture far on public land to find fruit in good supply, but this doesn’t mean you should disregard its location.
- Avoid picking fruit at crossroads where wild or domestic animals like to scent mark the pathways.
- It’s also advisable to steer clear of pathways adjacent to roads where harmful toxins from car exhaust fumes may have covered the fruit.
- If you are able to get the permission of the owner, try and confine your search to private land.
- As with all wild food foraging, only eat plants when you are 100 per cent positive of their identity.
So the next time you go fruit picking, instead of going straight for the blackberries why not consider what else the hedgerow has to offer? You may just be surprised what you find.